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“The Man Who Could Fly: the Bob Beamon Story”
Caption: An excerpt from The Man Who Could Fly: The Bob Beamon Story, the memoir of former New York City school student and Olympic athlete Bob Beamon. Image is a page from the Jamaica High School yearbook from 1966. Robert Beamon is pictured in the second to last row. in this yearbook page, Beamon is the only Black student, highlighting the lack of racial diversity at Jamaica High School.
Mr. Louis Schuker, the principal at Jamaica High, had a long talk with me and Coach Ellis. He said the odds of a 600 school student making it in a regular school environment were next to zero. His admonition to me was reminiscent of the one given by the judge who had sentenced me to the 600 school.
“Beamon, any trouble out of you and you are out of here,” Mr. Schuker said. “Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, sir,” I answered firmly and clearly. I knew that I wasn’t going anywhere but Jamaica High. This was where I wanted to be. This was where I belonged.
As an adult, Bob Beamon became an Olympic track and field athlete. In his 1999 memoir, The Man Who Could Fly: the Bob Beamon Story, he described his experience in the New York City public school system. Beamon had a difficult family life and his mother died when he was a baby. As a Black teen boy, he ended up in juvenile court and was sent to a “600” school. In this excerpt, he describes talking with the principal at Jamaica High School, and seeking admission to that school instead of the “600” school. Beamon’s attendance at Jamaica High gave him the chance to meet Wilma Rudolph, a three-time gold medalist at the Olympics, to run track and play basketball at school, and to graduate from high school. Beamon resisted the labels of “social maladjustment” or “emotional disturbance” that were often applied to students at the “600” schools.
Copyright: Genesis Press
How to cite: “‘The Man Who Could Fly: the Bob Beamon Story,’” in New York City Civil Rights History Project, Accessed: [Month Day, Year], https://nyccivilrightshistory.org/topics/boycotting-ny-schools/1965-boycott/the-man-who-could-fly.
- What led to Beamon’s placement at a “600” school?
- When Bob Beamon attended Jamaica High School, it was a majority-white school. How do you think that might have shaped his experience there?