I wrote earlier this year about the efforts of two local filmmakers in bringing to life some of the forgotten history of Michigan football. Now the first installment of their “Victors” series — “Black and Blue: The Story of Gerald Ford, Willis Ward and the 1934 Michigan-Georgia Tech Football Game” — is completed.
And tonight it’ll be on display at a free screening at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Ann Arbor. The screening is at 7 p.m. and is open to the public. (A DVD version of the film also is available at Stunt3.com and MVictors.com, as well as The MDen.)
It’s a great story, obviously. Ford, who’d go on to become our 38th president, protested the university’s decision to sit Ward, Michigan’s only African-American player, at the request of Georgia Tech. The Ann Arbor campus was in an uproar over the school’s Jim Crow action. And Ford, who was Ward’s roommate, considered quitting the team or sitting out the game in protest, though Ward encouraged him to play. Michigan went on to beat Georgia Tech, but it was the Wolverines’ only win that season, and Ward later said — in some terrific footage unearthed at the Ford library — the upheaval “ruined our ballclub.”
But the incident had a much greater impact over time, as Ford himself acknowledged it influenced his opinions — and later some of his actions — regarding civil-rights legislation and affirmative-action policies. That’s one reason the men behind this project, Stunt3′s Brian Kruger and Buddy Moorehouse, are planning to distribute this film — and accompanying study guides — to 1,200 high schools across Michigan for use as part of Black History Month next February. It’s also a pretty good reason to give it a look.