Hank Aaron, still hammering for social justice, makes a visit to Durham

Saturday, April 14, 2018
The News and Observer

There is a story from his childhood that sticks with Hank Aaron.

In Durham on Thursday, the Hall-of-Fame baseball player didn’t even tell the story. His good friend Andrew Young told it as if he’d heard it 100 one hundred times.

As Aaron bashfully listened, Young, a civil rights leader who was a close confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., told a tale about Aaron playing baseball outside as a child, only to be instructed by his mother to quickly hide inside under the bed because the KKK was riding through their neighborhood.

“Then the Klan rode by and she would say ‘alright, go back out and finish your game,’” Young said. “That’s where all of this started.”

That was one of Aaron’s early memories of being in a world where he would be looked at differently just because of the color of his skin. When Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1974 he received death threats. He spent time in the Negro American League before breaking into the big leagues.

The Hall-of-Fame baseball player turned philanthropist was in Durham on Thursday, at the Nasher Art Museum on the campus of Duke University to promote the Hank and Billye Suber Aaron Young Scholars Summer Research Program. The program, which aims to nurture young scholars interested in social justice, offers summer research and enrichment opportunities to Durham Public Schools’ middle and high school students.

Duke’s Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity named its enrichment program after the Aarons. Cook was the first African-American faculty member at Duke University.

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