Shining a Light on the History of Black Athletes

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Mike Glenn, a former Knick, has a passion for history and a library large enough to prove it.

Glenn, who spent 10 seasons in the N.B.A. and is now a television analyst for the Atlanta Hawks, has been an avid collector of African-American literature, a part of it relating to sports, for about 10 years. His library has more than 3,000 items, many of which he displays at exhibitions.

He will hold an exhibit on black athletes from Feb. 10-24 at the African American Museum of Southern Illinois University, his alma mater, in Carbondale.

Glenn said he hoped to bring more attention to the often untold history of black athletes.

“I am on a personal tour to integrate sports history,” Glenn, who played with the Knicks from 1978-81, said in an e-mail message.

Glenn’s interest in literature and history began as a curiosity about the quotations he used to recite in grade school. In 1997, when he was writing his first book, “Lessons in Success From the N.B.A.’s Top Players,” Glenn wanted to surround the players’ advice with some of those quotations. So he searched books for their origins.

Glenn found himself immersed in literature of the Harlem Renaissance, with books by Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. DuBois and James Weldon Johnson. He then took an interest in slave narratives, something that led him to what he now calls his favorite book, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.”

It was not until about three years ago, Glenn said, that he became interested in sports literature.

“I, kind of like a lot of scholars, thought that sports was not that important,” Glenn said in a telephone interview. “I underestimated the value of sports in our culture.”

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