Award-winning author talks about importance of football to civil rights movement


    When history looks back on the civil rights movement in America, it is not often through the lens of college football.

    Samuel Freedman, a New York Times columnist and award-winning author, however, sees it through that lens.

    Freedman visited TCU’s campus Monday night to talk about the significance of black players in college football and their role in the civil rights movement.

    Freedman’s latest book, “Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football that Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights,” lead the lecture about a 1969 football game between the Florida A&M Rattlers and the Tampa Spartans and the events preceding it.

    “There is no civil rights movement without the HBCUs [historically black colleges and universities],” Freedman said.

    Freedman referred to the “James Harris Experiment” (the efforts of Coach Eddie Robinson to make Harris a successful quarterback) as the precipitator to desegregated college football.

    Harris is known for becoming the first black quarterback to play in the NFL.

    Melita Garza, assistant journalism professor, wrote in an email that the Schieffer School Faculty’s Diversity Committee is working to develop new initiatives to highlight diversity and the media.

“One of these [initiatives] is to bring high profile journalists and strategic communicators to campus,” Garza wrote.

    Freedman said that it is an “honor” to write about black college football and its’ significance to the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

    Freedman is a tenured professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. The Society of Professional Journalists named him the nation’s outstanding journalism educator in 1997, according to his website.