Jason Sokol: Springfield, MA native world-class historian at 29





As a kid, Jason Sokol dreamed of becoming a basketball player.

Like his hero, Magic Johnson, Jason was a point guard.

He was good, fast, heady, with a knack for getting the ball to the open man.

He learned the game on his hometown courts of Springfield. He was often the only white kid on the floor.

A ball being dribbled, the squeak of sneakers was the soundtrack to his young life.

Jason played at Suffield Academy and all four years at Oberlin College in Ohio.

At Suffield, 5-foot-8 Jason Sokol realized his basketball career had a ceiling, lower than he would have liked.

He started reading James Baldwin and Howard Zinn. He double majored in history and philosophy at Oberlin.

"I was trying to figure out who I was," Jason says.

A passion for writing developed. So did a deeper interest in history and race in America. He thought journalism, because it combined those interests and talents, could be his new career path.

"I was interested in a people's history, from the bottom up, not the great white man's view," Jason says. "I also liked studying the past and connecting it to the present."...

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