As February comes to an end, we round out Black History Month with a spotlight on William “Doc” Key, a self-taught veterinarian who taught his horse Jim Key how to read, write, and calculate math problems. Teaching a horse these skills might sound preposterous, but Doc was able to nurture Jim’s ability through kindness, patience, and empathy. Together they traveled throughout the United States and impressed audiences with Jim’s amazing performances. In the process, they broke racial barriers and raised awareness for the humane treatment of animals.
Here’s what Donna Janell Bowman, author of Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness, had to say about William “Doc” Key’s legacy and the amazing duo’s story:
Doc and Jim made such a difference with their message of kindness, it seems we need to be reminded of that message today.
As one who tends to celebrate those who blast through obstacles, William “Doc” Key’s story [is] equally remarkable and inspiring. The real significance of [his legacy] is how Doc and Jim helped fuel the humane movement, and how they changed people’s minds about the way animals should be treated. In the process, perhaps they changed the way people treated each other, too. Doc and Jim’s legacy can be summed up in one word: Kindness. Our society and our world could use a lot more of that these days.
I hope readers will resonate with [their] story in individual ways: by the indomitable human spirit that resides in all of us; with Doc’s fundamental goodness and willingness to take a stand; with his example of diplomatic and peaceful co-existence with all people; with his conviction and never-give-up attitude; [and] with his empathy and compassion.
In this video, illustrator Daniel Minter discusses the process of creating the illustrations featured in Step Right Up.
Learn more about Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness here.
Further reading for Black History Month:
Black History Month: Why Remember Florence “Baby Flo” Mills?
Black History Month: Why Remember Robert Smalls?
Black History Month: Why Remember Toni Stone?
Black History Month: Why Remember Arthur Ashe?
8 Black History Month Books for Grades K-2
10 Black History Month Books for Grades 3-6
7 Core Values to Celebrate During Black History Month
Celebrate Black History Month with Five Collections from Lee & Low