The beginning of March marks the end of Black History Month and, with it, the Marian E. Washington Trailblazer Series.
Kansas Athletics launched the series to recognize the achievements and impact of African-Americans in the organization throughout the years. Each February, this series will continue to highlight distinguished African Americans that shaped the University of Kansas into what it is today.
This month, they celebrated Hall of Fame coach Marian E. Washington, basketball coach John McClendon, football star Curtis McClinton and track and field coach Stanley Redwine.
The Jayhawker Podcast featured Washington, sharing her story of how she grew up in small-town Pennsylvania and went on to be an Olympic gold medalist. She opened up about her experience being one of the first two African-American women to play for the U.S. Olympic team and coach in a major conference.
“Throughout my career, I was always fighting for something, challenging something,” Washington said.
Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self spoke about Washington in the podcast.
“She’s impacted this sport in ways I’m sure are bigger than what she’ll ever imagine,” Self said.
The Kansas Athletics series featured McClendon, McClinton and Redwine and honored them with individual videos each week highlighting their accomplishments.
"Curtis McClinton was instrumental to the racial progress seen not only at the University of Kansas, but across society as a whole."Our Marian E. Washington Trailblazer Series continues ⬎#BlackHistoryMonth pic.twitter.com/7BEZkjEtf4— Kansas Jayhawks (@KUAthletics) February 18, 2020
"While his leadership has helped the program flourish, it has been Stanley’s ability to inspire student-athletes to become the best version of themselves that truly makes him special.”Marian E. Washington Trailblazer Series ➞ Featuring Stanley Redwine pic.twitter.com/wHCtLaD1cu— Kansas Jayhawks (@KUAthletics) February 26, 2020
As for next year’s candidates, only time will tell. But, there are a handful of candidates who would be perfect for the series. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain and soccer star Homer Floyd would be some of my predictions for the next go around.
The legend Chamberlain is one known all around campus. He arrived at Kansas in 1955 amid a contentious time for civil rights. While he only played for Kansas for two years, the impact he left on not only Kansas, but on the entire sport of basketball, was unheard of.
Floyd is also a standout for the history of Kansas. Floyd was a running back and full back for Kansas football from 1955-1958. During his time, he became a prominent advocate for desegregation. Floyd led the Jayhawks in rushing yards for three years in a row, and got all-conference honors his senior season.
When Floyd and Chamberlain arrived at school in Lawrence, the town was still fully segregated. African Americans were not allowed to dine in restaurants and had to sit in a separate section of the movie theater.
It’s excellent to learn about the journeys that African-American alumni have been through during their time at Kansas and the impressive lives and triumphs they’ve led afterwards.
The trailblazer series will continue to educate current students and staff about the history and successes of African Americans at Kansas in years to come.