Affinity and Beyond – Episode 18

Brianna wanted to explore further the multiplier effects on talent that had become a theme of many of the stories she had written. She had never thought about these multiplier effects before, but they were present in almost every story. The discovery of one person’s talent seemed to become a spark for others. She had begun to see that talent sparks could come in many different ways. Her story of Benjamin Mays revealed just how many different ways that talent could be sparked.

Benjamin Mays was born in South Carolina in 1894 as the youngest child in a family of eight children. Both parents were born into slavery. His career in education was sparked by an older sister who taught him to read before he was old enough to go to school. He was influenced by African American leaders as well as the cruelty of the Jim Crow south.

He was an exceptional student but discouraged from attending a historic Black college due to the violence. After at first being rejected by Bates College in Maine, he was accepted after appealing directly to the Bates President. He became one of the outstanding students at Bates but denied acceptance into Phi Beta Kappa.

Benjamin continued his education, eventually earning a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. His intellect was an obvious talent utilized to its fullest level, but Benjamin had other talents as well.

As President of Morehouse College, he became a talent spark for many civil rights activists. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to him as his spiritual and intellectual mentor. He was a role model for Jackie Robinson and helped African American players gain acceptance as teams moved into the south. Benjamin also served as an advisor to Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, and Carter.

As Brianna reflected on the multiplier impacts on the talents of others, she became impressed by how Benjamin’s talent as an educator, mentor, and man of faith was developed. Could talent be the consequence of responding to others who work to inhibit one’s talent? That certainly seemed to be the case here. When he went to Bates College, his intellectual talent was forged by the pressure he could compete with what others perceived as Yankee superiority.

The experience of living in the Jim Crow society gave him the credibility to influence the Civil Rights movement. Brianna wondered how one turns a spark that could lead to unfocused hatred to one of focused non-violent resistance. There is a talent in understanding the consequences of different responses to the hatred of others.

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“When we first moved here it was the first team of major league caliber to ever move this far south to play baseball. Benjamin Mays was one of the guys, one of the persons really that made things a lot easier for myself and some of the other black ball players.”
– Jackie Robinson

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