In honor of Black History Month, here's a little history and perspective of the Soap Box Derby from Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
“An enduring symbol of American boyhood (girls weren’t allows to race until the early 1970s), the All-American Soap Box Derby mixed good old American whiz-bang ingenuity with family fun. The competition had started as a Depression-era distraction, a way to create something out of nothing when nothing was what most people had. Over the years, it had taken hold at the grassroots, and in 1960 Levi Jackson was one of fifty thousand boys gearing up to compete in local races around the country"
With the help of his African American, NASA engineer mother, Mary Jackson, he won.
"Entering the derby was tantamount to believing you had a shot at victory, as much (or more) for the parents as for the racer. The electrified fence of segregation and the centuries of shocks it delivered so effectively circumscribed the lives of American blacks that even after the current was turned off, the idea of climbing over the fence inspired dread… Like so many competitive situations large and small, national and local, black people frequently disqualified themselves even without the WHITES ONLY sign in view. There was no rule keeping a Negro boy from entering the race, but it took a lot of gumption for him to believe that he might win, and even more to accept a loss as a failure that had nothing to do with his race.”
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