Earl Robert Key was born January 24, 1950 in Enid, Mississippi. He was the tenth child in a family of 13 children. His father and mother, Manaway and Virginia Key, raised he and his siblings on a farm that they, like so many other Black families in the South, sharecropped. They worked hard and always had a roof over their heads, clothes on their bodies and food to eat.
He matriculated through the Panola County School System in Batesville, Mississippi and graduated from Patton Lane High School in May, 1969. During his high school years, he participated in sports activities and in so doing sustained a knee injury. At the time he had no idea that this injury would play a very integral part in the shaping of his life and the attainment of his goals. During senior career day he decided to volunteer for the marines, but because of the knee injury he was not accepted.
During the 60’s he idolized Muhammed Ali and actually dreamed of becoming a professional boxer. He also saw Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other black men who embraced their dreams and decided that one day he could and would realize his own dreams. He knew that deep within he harbored the desire to do more and be more than a farmer in the fields of Mississippi. He also dreamed of being a Professional Barber and had even begun to show some skills by using the young men in his community to display his budding talent.
Because he saw the potential for a better life, in July, 1969 he moved to Memphis, Tennessee. He started working at Piccadilly Cafeteria, and also worked other jobs. But because of the earlier knee injury and the fact that many of them involved standing for several hours, he was unable to continue.
Soon thereafter he received a letter which indicated that he was being drafted into the Armed Forces. Upon examination however, he was again informed that he would not be able to be inducted because of the knee injury. The physician who examined him told him that he needed to get his knee repaired as soon as possible. He took the physician’s advice and had the surgery. He was 19 years old at the time.
During his recuperation his life changed forever. He was given a vision, a revelation, that he needed to tell his story.
Even though a Youth Opportunity Center Grant afforded him a full scholarship and the opportunity to attend Tyler Barber College and later become a Master of his trade and even though he worked for many years for Plough, Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee, he knew that the vision to tell his story had to be brought to fruition. In 1989 he resigned from his job at Plough and became a full time Professional Barber. This gave him additional free time to follow the vision that he saw at 19 years of age.
In 2008 after years of knowing that he would tell his story he released his first book, STRONG BOY, WEAK MAN.
He has a love for family and friends and is the proud father of one son and two grandchildren.
About the Book
Strong Boy Weak Man
As a young child Michael DeAngelo Nicholas thought that life on the farm for he and his family was all he had to look forward to. He even contemplated dropping out of school but after a serious conversation with his friend “Pat”, and the chance encounter with a visitor to the family farm, he knew that dropping out was not an option.
His family situation was not ideal and he worried that one day it would disintegrate totally. There were secrets that were not secret at all but glossed over just enough to keep them undercover. Neighbors whispered, family members shook their heads and it was obvious that everyone knew the same thing.
The story is raw, enormously sensitive and told with clarity that has obviously risen up from the depths of Michael’s soul. He attempts to unravel a tightly woven poverty drivenculture of the times in rural Mississippi, while rushing to embrace a more promising lifestyle in the glamour-lit, fast paced Memphis, Tennessee. He shares certain family hardships and disappointments, making them a vital part of the book and eventually allowing that part to render a happy ending.
Michael DeAngelo’s self-motivation, intense drive and never-ending determination served to propel him when times were at their worse. He knew that he could make it if he just persevered and found a way through all the stumbling blocks visible and invisible that were placed in his pathway. In spite of serious learning deficiencies, intensified by family issues, he pressed forward to accomplish those special goals he held so deep within.
As he spills his insides out on paper, he embraces the fact that without the struggle there would be no triumph.