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Delving into stories of cultural diversity

Luci Hand

Luci Hand

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Updated: August 22, 2013 6:34AM



Let’s meet some interesting minority women of history.

In “Touch the Sky” by Ann Malaspina, we meet Alice Coachman, an Olympic high jumper.

My only known phobia is open heights. Even curbs can give me fits, so wanting to jump up high off the ground knowing you are going to fall down is beyond me.

Alice, who is black, grew up in rural Georgia. She was always running and jumping, playing basketball with the boys and out leaping them.

Her teacher saw something in the active girl and took her to a track meet. She fell in love with the high jump and made her own to practice with.

The landlord came by and told the high school coach and at Tuskegee High School she excelled, then went on to the college and to the Olympics in 1948, in London.

With a spectacular jump of 5 feet, 8 1/8 inches, Alice had finally “touched the sky.”

She went on to teach and coach and is in the Olympic Hall of Fame.

In “A Voice of Her Own,” by Kathryn Lasky, we meet Phyllis Wheatley, who was a slave in colonial America.

In Boston, Susanna Wheatley was looking for an older girl to be a house servant and took pity on the little shivering, naked 7-year-old and bought her. She was named Phyllis after the ship that brought her to America.

Phyllis was taught to read and write and about religion by Ms. Wheatley. She began to write wonderful poetry which Ms. Wheatley had published as a broadsheet.

By 17, she was famous for her poetry. She was tested by the white male leaders who did not believe that a female slave could write such wonders.

Printers would not publish the work of a slave, so she went to England where her book of poetry was the first book ever written and published by a black American woman.

The success of that book led to publication in the Colonies.

Let’s meet an unusual actress in “Shining Star” by Paula Yoo and Lin Wang. This is the Anna May Wong story.

We meet her tied to a railroad track struggling to get loose before the locomotive runs over her.

She is actually in her parents’ laundry, dreaming about being an actress and leaving the steam and wet clothes behind. She secretly visited the movies whenever she could.

She got a job as a secretary and met a director who needed three hundred extras, Chinese, for his movie.

By dressing as a traditional Chinese person, she stood out from the other extras and won a better part. She worked as an extra for years, and but not until “Bits of Life” did she get a starring role.

Playing against a white actor made up to be Chinese, she could not kiss him on screen.

Frustrated with the lack of roles, she went to Europe and was a sensation. Coming back, she auditioned for the lead in “The Good Earth” but lost the role to a white actress.

She went to China and became a star there.



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