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Starr Center for the

Study of the American Experience

Bloodshed, 27 Athletes, and a Quest for Northern Freedom

Date: 5:30pm EDT October 18, 2017

A talk by Patrick Henry Fellow Wil Haygood.

Five months after the shattering assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 - and in the midst of Vietnam War protests and political upheaval - all-black East High School in Columbus, Ohio, swung its doors open to begin the school year. Fear gripped the city that more urban unrest might erupt. Rev. King himself had previously visited the city to lead protest marches. In one of the most fascinating tableaus of the northern civil rights struggle, the East High Tigers won a state basketball championship that year. Then, two months later - the city having stayed calm, and the all-black baseball team also battling better financed schools and teams - East High won the state title in baseball. The impoverished school had taken two state championships in a year of mourning for King and all that he had stood for. The athletic victories emboldened the community, and soon, a legal plan was put in place that would lead to a trial before the United States Supreme Court to determine the fate of school segregation in this northern city. That battle would also lead to victory, proving that the young athletes were heroes in a far deeper manner than they had imagined.

Wil Haygood, 2017-2018 Patrick Henry Fellow 

Wil Haygood is a cultural historian and an award-winning author of seven nonfiction books. His latest book, Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America, was awarded the 2016 Scribe Book Award from the American Society of Legal Writers.  Showdown also received the Ohioana Book Award, the Honor Book Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and was named a finalist for the Dayton International Literary Peace Prize, the NAACP Image Award, the Benjamin Hooks Book Award, and the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence. Haygood’s other books include King of the Cats: the Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.In Black and White: the Life of Sammy Davis Jr.Sweet Thunder: the Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson, and The Butler.

Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post story about White House butler Eugene Allen, who served under eight presidents, from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, won multiple journalism awards and was adapted into the prizewinning major motion picture The Butler directed by Lee Daniels. Haygood served as an associate producer. His book on Eugene Allen, “The Butler: A Witness to History,” has been translated into over a dozen foreign languages. 

While in residence at Washington College, Haygood will be at work on Tigerland: The Miracle on East Broad Street. The book tells the epic story of America in 1968-69 through the prism of a segregated all-black high school in Columbus, Ohio. Fighting for equality and freedom, two athletic teams at the school achieved moments of grandness by winning state championships amidst the turmoil following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. He will also teach a course “Film and their Cultural Stories.”

Haygood is on sabbatical from Miami University in Ohio, where he serves as Boadway Visiting Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence in the Department of Media, Journalism and Film. He has received fellowships from John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Alicia Patterson Foundation. Prior to joining the Miami faculty, he was a correspondent at the Boston Globe and a reporter at the Washington Post.