From significant advances in the field of personalized medicine–– which uses information regarding an individual’s specific genetic make-up and environment to diagnose and treat diseases–– to the awarding of the Nobel Prize to five brilliant women and the “miracle on the Hudson,” the year 2009 is one that has been marked by everything from exceptional achievements that exemplified the best of humanity to blistering scandals that demonstrated some of the worst.
As January 1, 2010, quickly approaches, this special series will be used to count down ten notable moments in the history of African-Americans in 2009. Whereas many might presume that the election of President Barack Obama is at the top of the following list, it is not. In fact, the event which does sit at number one for some reason does not occupy a place on either the Associated Press listing of the top stories of 2009 or that voted on by members of Facebook. In fact, readers may find themselves surprised by several entries on the list, which begins with number 10 and counts down to number 1:
NUMBER 10: Athlete of the Year
Tennis icon Serena Williams garnered 66 out of 158 votes to become the Associated Press’ 2009 Female athlete of the year on December 19, capping off not just the year, but a decade in which she has become at the age of 28 one of the most accomplished and influential athletes in the world. Williams previously won the AP award in 2002.
The athlete’s 2009 honor came after she won three major titles to finish the year at number 1 in World Tennis Association (WTA) ranking, including: the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and tour championships concluding the season. Teaming up with her sister Venus, she also won three Grand Slam doubles championships.
Williams’ victory is a particularly sweet one following a much-hyped on-court dispute between the tennis player and a line judge in September. “It wasn't right the way I reacted,” Williams told the AP. “I never said it was — but I was right about the call."
Disputes to the side, Williams was also named, along with golfer Tiger Woods, as the Sports Illustrated athlete of the decade. She joined Roger Federer as the International Tennis Federation's world champion of 2009. At $28.5 million, her career earnings currently stand as a record for a female athlete. In addition, the tennis star expanded her profile in 2009 by working with writer Daniel Paisner to pen the memoir, On the Line.
NUMBER 9: the IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize
Boston native Michael Thomas beat out established authors Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing, and this year’s Pulitzer Prize-winner for fiction, Junot Diaz, to win the 2009 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award June 11, 2009, with his debut novel, Man Gone Down.
Thomas’ novel, which competed against a total of 144 other titles, has been described as a very contemporary one which deals with such aspects of modern American life as interracial marriage, divorce, and surviving tough economic challenges. Thomas himself describes the novel as one possessing a “gallows humor,” and one which depicts African Americans’ ongoing struggle for freedom:
"If not from slavery then from segregation,” he told Reuters. “If not from segregation then from stereotype, if not from stereotype then from glass ceilings and redline mortgages."
Following the Nobel Prize for Literature the IMPAC award of $140,000 is considered the richest literary prize in the world. It was established in 1994 by the Dublin (as in Ireland) City Council and is sponsored by the international company IMPAC. The author journeyed to Dublin to accept his prize.