Back in the day, his FBI file dubbed him “an arrogant Negro.” But then, people often mistook principle for arrogance whenever African Americans insisted on justice.

Sometimes, they still do. As recently as 2017, after all, much of white America vilified NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police violence against African Americans. Donald Trump cursed him. Wayne Newton ordered him to “get the hell out” of the country. But Bill Russell, the “arrogant Negro” in the FBI file, lowered himself to one of his then-83-year-old knees and glared into a camera. “Proud to take a knee,” he tweeted, “and to stand tall against social injustice.”