Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Wonder. Wonder Wonders, “Who was Wendell Scott?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wonder!

What do you think when you hear the word “equality”? Do you picture people helping each other?  Do you think of the ongoing fight for equal rights

Most people would say equality means treating all people the same. When we see people being treated unequally, it takes a brave person to stand up and try to fix it. Luckily, many brave people in history have done just that. You may think of examples like Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony, or Chief Joseph.

Wendell Scott was another person who fought against inequality. Born in Virginia in 1921, Scott lived during a time when segregation was legal. That meant people of different colors were separated in public places, like schools. It also meant that people did not receive equal treatment under the law.

From an early age, Wendell Scott was interested in cars. In 1941, he became a mechanic for the Army and served in World War II. When he came home, Scott worked as a mechanic and a taxi driver. 

A few years later, Scott heard about a new opportunity. A man from the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was in Virginia looking for new NASCAR drivers. Scott didn‘t hesitate to sign up.

This was a brave decision. When Scott signed up to race, there were no other Black drivers in NASCAR. The organization had never let a non-White person race before. There were many people who wanted to keep it that way, but Scott knew he had to fight against this inequality. He wanted to make his dream come true and become a NASCAR driver.

When he showed up for his first race, officials turned him away. Still, Scott persisted. He kept signing up for races and eventually competed in a lower division of NASCAR.

In the lower division, Scott proved he belonged in NASCAR. He won 127 races! Still, people in NASCAR treated Scott like he wasn’t good enough. Officials still refused to let him compete in some races. At others, they refused to pay him when he won. Even other drivers went after Scott, trying to run him off the track.

Through all of this, Wendell Scott never stopped showing up to races, and he did everything he could to be a man other drivers had to respect. After eight years in racing, Scott made it to NASCAR’s highest division, the Grand Nationals. In his first few years, he finished in the top five in twenty different races. However, his hardships weren‘t over.

In 1963, Scott was in a race in Jacksonville, Florida. When the race began, Scott pulled ahead of the other drivers. By the end, he was laps ahead. When he rounded the curve on his final lap, he expected to see the checkered flag that meant the race was over. However, the officials did not wave the flag. To stop Scott from winning the race, organizers tampered with the scores to make sure a White driver would win.

When officials declared another driver the winner, Wendell Scott did not back down. He insisted that officials review the race. Wendell Scott left that day with the monetary prize, but officials still refused to give him the trophy. It would be another two years before NASCAR officials finally announced Wendell Scott as the winner of the race.

Scott continued racing for another ten years after this win. In 1973, he suffered life-threatening injuries in a crash. These injuries ended his career, but his legacy would go on. Scott was the first Black driver to compete in NASCAR, and today, the organization is becoming more diverse. 

Wendell Scott fought against inequality in NASCAR, but injustices still exist in many parts of our world today. Have you ever seen people being treated unequally? Do you know of places that you wish were more accepting? What are some ways we can make our world a more equal place?

Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.9, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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