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We all know that Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play pro
sports in America, right? Wrong!! Despite most American sports fans
knowing about Robinson playing being the first black baseball player in
the previously all-white leagues, few today realize that it was
American professional football that first broke the color barrier.
Heck, I am a retired history teacher and I didn't even know this-- that
is until I saw a great documentary, "Forgotten Four: The Integration of
Pro Football". This great documentary just debuted on Netflix and is
from the Epix channel--and it's well worth seeing and amazingly
While the four referred to in the title of this film began playing pro
football a year before Robinson played in the National League, the film
actually goes back quite a bit further with a brief history lesson.
Back in 1920, Fritz Pollard not only became the first black player in
the white football league, but he even coached the team. In the 1930s,
once again, two more black NFL players were in the league. However,
these two appearances were not to last and the first permanent players
that remained in the league and ushered in many more were the four who
were the subject of the documentary. Kenny Washington and Woody Strode
for the Los Angeles Rams were the first NFL black players in the 1940s
and this same year also saw two black players for the Cleveland Browns
in the new rival All-American Football Conference. The film is their
story and is assembled brilliantly. With a terrific combination of
evocative music, very compelling stories and great filmmaking, it's a
film even non-sports fans will appreciate. A truly inspirational and
well-made documentary from start to finish.
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