With all the media attention they've been getting lately, it's safe to say that "blerds" -- black nerds -- are now officially a thing.
Since Eric Deggans' 2012 NPR story, "Move Over Urkel, There Are New 'Blerds' Around," the Internet has been ablaze with blerdness: What is a blerd? No, seriously, what is it? How do you date one?
Yes, blerds are having the best year ever, but they are nothing new. The blerd was not invented with the NPR story. It didn't take its first breath when Donald Glover began his campaign to be the first black Spider-Man. It didn't materialize the first time Steve walked through the Winslows' door. Though the portmanteau is fresh and faddy, the blerd is as old as black folk are beautiful.
We all know the story of America's inception: The British were like, "I say, do what we tell you, won't you, old chap?" and then America was like, "Nah, bruh. We're not calling cookies 'biscuits' anymore." And the British were all, "Oh, bother. I fear we shall have to thrash you." And Americans were like, "LOL, nope," and then they won their freedom in the dawn's early light. Also, slavery happened. It was with the transport of those unfortunate first slaves that the first blerd seeds were planted. These blerds were innovators -- among the first to do what they did.
This Black History Month, we thought we'd celebrate by taking a look at the blerd through history.
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Remember Crispus Attucks? Total blerd. What you know is that Attucks was the first person killed in the Boston Massacre in 1777. What you don't know is that, while he was there to protest British impositions, he was also there to demand that more black people be added to the cast of "Star Trek."
But seriously, folks. Lesser-known blerds who lived in the dawn of American history include Lucas Santomee, a widely known physician in the 1660s in what is now New York City. In true blerd fashion, the Holland-trained healer was also known for his love of medical puns. Among his favorites: "Did you hear about the doctor who was drinking while setting a cast? He got plastered!" Oh, Lucas. You so crazy.
Lucy Terry Prince
Then there was Lucy Terry Prince (1730-1821), author of the oldest known work of literature penned by an African-American (the poem "Bar Fight"). Her love of reading and writing is enough to get her into the blerd club, but what's more, she was smart as a whip and loved to debate. In the 1790s she successfully argued down white people in court all the time and made a very eloquent entreaty to the Williams College board of trustees for her son's admission, though she was denied (because of racism). If she went to high school with you, she totally would have taken your debate team to state.
Perhaps my favorite pre-1900s blerd is Ellen Craft. Born in 1826, Ellen was a slave from Georgia, who, because of her light skin and mixed race, made a very convincing white man when she cut her hair and donned a top hat and men's clothes. She escaped to freedom in this disguise with her husband in tow, posing as her slave. The getup is slightly reminiscent of the woodsman who saves the day in "Little Red Riding Hood." See where I'm going with this? Ellen was basically the first black cosplayer. My friends, nothing is blerdier than being a black cosplayer.
Clayton is a writer, humorist and blogger from Louisville, Ky.