“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance
and conscientious stupidity.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
America has many fitness influences. Our most prominent influences in physical fitness came from Germany and Sweden, but we also have a rich history with other influences as well such as Native Americans and African Americans.
One of the most fascinating people in American fitness history would be Aaron Molineaux Hewlett. Mr. Hewlett was the very first African American to receive faculty appointment at Harvard University where he was the head instructor and curator of the Harvard Gymnasium from 1859-1871. Hewlett was also the father of the very first African American lawyer to win a case in the Supreme Court of the United States (Carter vs. Texas, 1900).
In these classic photos you can see and learn a great deal if you are physically educated enough to realize what you are seeing. Let’s examine the photos closely as a history lesson…but first, how was classical physical education composed?
Classical physical education in this era was a combination of these important content areas:
- Restorative Arts (Optimal Harmony, Structural & Postural Integrity)
- Martial Arts (Self & National Defense)
- Pedagogical (Sports, Games, Play, Dance, Theory)
In the photographs, we can see all three content areas represented. These posed objects were NOT placed there by chance! Hewlett was an educator who very well knew the higher noble purpose and cultural values of creating “physically educated” citizens.
- Linguistic Roots of Physical Education: “Physical comes from the Greek physikos. It means natural. Culture is from the Latin cultus. It refers to divine worship. In other words, cultus and the search for and celebration of the divine unknown, and physikos refers to the laws that govern the body’s mortal journey through life.” -Dr. Ed Thomas/Dr. Dudley Sargent
We see the restorative arts represented with the Indian Clubs, Medicine Balls, and Dumbbells. We see the Martial Arts represented with the boxing clubs–Hewlett was an excellent boxing instructor and gymnast with an excellent physique. His long staff or “wand” can be both a martial weapon and restorative tool. Hewlett was a Harvard educator and dressed professionally–there is your pedagogical along with boxing crossing over into the sport category. These photos also exhibit the significant “Four Horsemen” fitness training tools which were: medicine balls, Indian Clubs, dumbbells, and wands.
For more historical information on Aaron Molineaux Hewlett, see the “mock” interview with Hewlett and his colleagues by Dr. Ed Thomas or “The Evolution of Attitudes-Part I” by Harvard University.