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“I’m looking forward to hearing what a white Jewish man found so significant in our African-American history that we miss.” - Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis

Freedman_author photo_by Sara Barrett
Author Samuel G. Freedman to speak on the season in black college football that transformed the sport and changed the course of civil rights in America.


The ways football coaches at two historically black colleges changed the Civil Rights movement will be the topic when Professor Samuel G. Freedman talks about his book “Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football That Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights” at the Church of the Open Door, 6001 NW 8th 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 African-American history that we miss,” said Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis, Church of the Open Door’s spiritual leader.

“Breaking the Line” tells the stories of two legendary football coaches and rivals — Eddie Robinson, at the pinnacle of his hall of fame career at Grambling College in northern Louisiana, and Alonzo S. “Jake” Gaither, nearing the end of his illustrious reign at Florida A&M in Tallahassee — who commanded two of the most storied teams black college football history..

It recounts how Robinson prepared the talented quarterback James Harris to be the first black starting quarterback in the National Football League. And, how 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 45,000spectators 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 is the author of six previous book, two others on ethnic subjects.

 “Jew vs. Jew,” winner of the National Jewish Book Award, examines the American Jewish community’s internal schisms, divisions invisible to many outsiders.

“The Inheritance,” looks at the evolution of white ethnic Americans from Roosevelt Democrats to Reagan Republicans and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

For more information, call the Church of the Open Door at (305) 759-0373.

Breaking the Line by Samuel G. Freedman

PHOTO:   Sara Barrett



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