Two football coaches at historically black colleges who changed professional football and the course of the Civil Rights movement were among the lesser known heroes, until the publication of Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights.
Samuel G. Freedman, the book’s author, will speak about the legacies of Grambling College’s Eddie Robinson and Alonzo S. “Jake” Gaither at Florida A&M at the Church of the Open Door, 6001 NW Eighth Ave, Miami, Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.
The event is free and open to the public.
Breaking the Line is Freedman’s second book on an African-American theme. Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church, the first, profiles the Rev. Dr. Johnny Ray Youngblood and his work as pastor of Saint Paul Community Baptist Church in the troubled East New York section of Brooklyn.
“I’m looking forward to hearing what a white Jewish man found so significant in our Africa-American history that we miss,” said Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis, spiritual leader of Church of the Open Door.
Breaking the Line also tells how Robinson prepared the enormously talented James Harris to be the first black starting quarterback in the National Football League at a time when many NFL coaches thought black men weren’t smart enough to lead a team.
Gaither, in turn, moved the white education establishment to sanction the first game in the South pitting black and white colleges against one another. The 1969 sold-out game between FAMU and the University of Tampa drew 45,000 spectators and was the largest integrated gathering in the South to date.
Breaking the Line climaxes in December 1967, at the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami, pitting Grambling’s Robinson against Gaither of FAMU in what was deemed the national championship for HBCUs.
Freedman is an award-winning author, journalist and educator. A former New York Times reporter, he currently writes the paper’s “On Religion” column. He is a journalism professor and the author of six previous books, two on specifically ethnic topics. Jew vs. Jew examines the American Jewish community’s internal schisms, divisions invisible to many outsiders.
The Inheritance, which looks at the evolution of white ethnic Americans from Roosevelt Democrats to Reagan Republicans, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.
For more information, call the Church of the Open Door at 305-759-0373.