Chess Players an important part of Black History Month!

There is much to be said for Black History Month,  a month-long celebration of accomplishments and triumphs. Originally called  "Negro History Week," the tradition was started by erudite scholar Carter G. Woodson in 1926. In the past, the emphasis was placed on important figures in politics, arts, sports, entertainment, education and science.  Perhaps the scientific and intellectual discoveries were most inspiring since these facts are not often mentioned in popular media sources and history books.

Some of inventors in the Black history of America owning patents are: Garrett Morgan (traffic light and gas mask), W. Johnson (egg-beater), W.A. Lavalette (printing press), Maurice W. Lee (pressure cooker), Granville T. Woods (electric railway system), R.B. Spikes (automatic gear shift), Alexander Miles (elevator/lift), Tom J. Marshal (fire extinguisher), Elijah McCoy (lubricator for engines), Sarah Boone (ironing board), George  W. Carver (peanut butter),  Phil Brooks (disposable syringe),  and T. Grant (golf tee) to name a few.

Garrett A. Morgan

Garrett A. Morgan, inventor

These symbols of ingenuity destroy the notion that people of African descent have not made substantial contributions in the way of innovation, and of course, there are hundreds more if we include African and Caribbean inventors. This of course can be challenged if (and only if) one knows the history. Unfortunately most do not know of this history. This also applies to chess. Many years ago when asked about promising black chess players in history, this writer could name a few. Ironically, it was this ignorance that became the impetus behind the creation of The Chess Drum.

GM Maurice Ashley's accomplishments immediately inspired thousands of Black chess players (of all ages) to believe it is possible to become a chess Grandmaster. Prior to this, there were few sources in the media (chess or otherwise) that showed Black chess players accomplishing anything of note… the history has always been there. Over the past two years, The Chess Drum has compiled more than 2200 pages of historic data, some of it coming from well-wishers who had a story to tell about a particular player. Fortunately, there are still many stories yet to be told, and history to be made.

Recently another historic footnote was written when both Ashley and IM-elect Stephen Muhammad competed in the 2003 U.S. Championship. Qiydaar Muhammad (no relation to Stephen), an 8th grader at Philadelphia's Raising Horizons Quest Charter School stated,

"We wish you future success in upcoming tournaments. We follow your exciting games in the U.S. Championship, and we are very proud of Mr. Ashley and Mr. Muhammad. We have a number of students that would love to play on your level, and I am one of them."

Certainly Black chess players have become part of historic trivia whether it is Theophilus Thompson of the U.S., Rogelio Ortega of Cuba,  IM Kevin Denny of Barbados, IM Robert Gwaze of Zimbabwe, IM Watu Kobese of South Africa,  IM Amon Simutowe of Zambia, or Raphaelle Delahaye of France.  Incidentally, who can forget the historic Wilbert Paige Memorial tournament? This event will be recorded in the annals of history as a triumphant event and embodied the galvanizing spirit of Pan-Africanists Marcus Garvey (Jamaica) and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana)! Happy Black History Month!

Wilbert Paige Memorial players and commentators. Copyright © 2001, Daaim Shabazz.

Wilbert Paige Memorial players and commentators. Seated (L-R) IM Amon Simutowe, NM Grace Nsubuga, GM Maurice Ashley (commentator),  FM Ronald Simpson, IM Michael Schleifer, FM Stephen Muhammad. Standing (L-R) NM Jerald Times (commentator), NM Ernest ColdingIM Watu Kobese, FM William Morrison, FM Kenny Solomon, NM Norman Rogers, NM Elvin Wilson (commentator).

To read more about Black inventors, click on the following links:

Little Africa
International Black Inventions Museum

The Black Collegian

Posted by The Chess Drum: 5 February 2003