Sunday, February 01, 2015

First African American : Wendell Scott

I thought I would do a portrait series called First African American for Black History Month. I'll essentially look for people who were the first to accomplish something in the US and draw their portrait as a way to learn a little bit more and practice on toned sketch paper. This annual observance, said to "honor the too-often neglected accomplishment of black Americans", first started as Negro History week back in 1926 and evolved into Black History Month in 1970 and was officially recognized by the U.S. government under President Gerard Ford in 1976. 

First off, is Wendell Scott, a car racer from Virginia who broke down many barriers in the car racing world. There's a quote on Scott's website by author and sport journalist, Peter Golenbock that states "Wendell Scott was to NASCAR what Jackie Robinson was to baseball. The difference was that Robinson played in liberal Brooklyn and had the backing of Branch Rickey and Scott raced in the segregated South and had... nobody".  He didn't get as much support as the other racers and often had to be his own pit crew and mechanic. He even had a sticker on one of his cars that said "Mechanic ME" making light of his situation. Despite his disadvantages, he pursued his racing career starting with the smaller league, Dixie Circuit. His racing career was not without its many trials and tribulations, but he worked his way up the chain, gain the respect of some fans and some peers over time and found a way to infiltrate the racial barrier of NASCAR at the time and went on to win a NASCAR race in 1963. 

Scott continued to race until he was forced to retire in 1973 due to a major racing injury. Four years later, Greased Lighting, a movie based on his story starring Richard Pryor, was released. Scott died in 1990 at the age of 69 from complications due to spinal cancer. He was recently induced into the NASCAR Hall of fame

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