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Sat Oct 5, 2019, 12:18 PM

Black and Blue- The Story of Gerald Ford, Willis Ward and the 1934 Michigan-Georgia Tech Football Ga

This framed photograph of the most disgraceful incident in University of Michigan football history, and ultimately, one of the most inspiring is placed on the wall in front of my desk. I guess as a daily reminder to use despair as fuel for hope, inspiration, and ACTION.

If you haven’t seen the documentary ‘Black and Blue’, please do so. This film tells the long-forgotten story of the 1934 game between The University of Michigan and Georgia Tech. When the Yellow Jackets agreed that season to come to Ann Arbor, Michigan for a game, they insisted on one condition - Michigan had to bench the lone African-American player on the team, a talented end from Detroit named Willis Ward (member of Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha at the University of Michigan and best friends with future president Gerald Ford).

Many of Ward’s teammates were outraged when athletic officials at The University of Michigan agreed to the demand. The most outraged Wolverine was Ward’s roommate, a lineman from Grand Rapids named Gerald Ford.

Ford threatened to quit the team in response to Ward’s benching - and changed his mind only after Ward convinced him that he had to play.

The incident also galvanized the Michigan student body and Ann Arbor community, which held loud and vocal protests against the decision to keep Ward out of the game.

In the end, the Ward incident helped The University of Michigan turn an important corner in race relations, and made an impact on Gerald Ford that stayed with him all the way to the White House. When Ford passed away in 2006, President George W. Bush referenced the Willis Ward incident in his eulogy.

Rashid Faisal


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