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Do Sneakers Trivialize Black History?

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Source: adidas NEWS STREAM : adidas Unveils Arthur Ashe Tribute Collection

For the last few years both Nike, Adidas and Under Armour have released shoes that bring to the attention of the sneaker world Black History. This year adidas will feature a tribute to tennis legend Arthur Ashe who was a staunch fighter for the rights of African Americans as well as being a 3 time Grand Slam winner and the first Black man to win a Grand Slam.

The question is does this commercialization of Black History diminish the importance of Black accomplishments or does it bring attention to the accomplishments of African Americans in American society?

The shoes are often the dopest releases of the year. The shoes typically feature graphics and informational cards that explain why a particular topic was chosen or a particular person is being celebrated. The shoes are stylish and can create dialogue in the right circumstances, but at the same time the shoes are often priced in a range that is beyond many of the people who want to buy them.

There seems to be a paradox, but does that make the commercialization of history a bad thing? I say no. Often it takes entertainment or art that is sold to bring attention to certain historical aspects. Consider that I never learned in school that Granville Woods made the walkie talkie. It took a song from BDP named “You Must Learn” to also teach me that Garrett Morgan made the traffic light.

Adidas and other brands utilize the narratives of Black History although it is commercial, how many kids today would know who Arthur Ashe is without this release from Adidas? Last year Nike released their Black History Month kicks with the tagline “The Power of One”. Each shoe came with a card explaining the meaning and also Nike donated to causes associated with African Americans.


It’s like the N7 program from Nike for Native Americans is a positive campaign because of the attention it brings to the Native American community. If it takes commercialization to enlighten, then so be it. Without looking into this topic, I would have never known what other Black male won a Grand Slam. (yep, I’m making you look it up)