Black Champions

About

The complete Black Champions interviews encompass 18 hours of footage featuring such prominent sports figures as Curt Flood, Arthur Ashe, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilma Rudolph, and Floyd Patterson. They provide an in-depth oral history of African American life as it relates to sports and civil rights from the early 1900s to the 1980s. Unrestricted access to this collection of never-before-seen interviews can now provide a substantial research and teaching resource for scholars and students investigating civil rights history and the role of athletics in U.S. culture.  One of the most distinctive aspects of the Black Champions interviews is the strong presence of African American female athletes from the mid-20th Century. Women sports pioneers interviewed include track gold medalists Wilma Rudolph and Alice Coachman-Davis, and tennis champion Althea Gibson The contributions of black female athletes often is overlooked in sports histories, and filmed interviews with such women are not nearly as common as those with their male counterparts.

The Film & Media Archive is pleased to present all 32 interviews reassembled and able to be viewed in their entirety for the first time, thanks to a grant from the National Historic Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC).   

Black Champions Biographies and Interviews

Below is a list of all interviewees who were interviewed for Black Champions. Those who were included in the production had a small biography included in the press kit sent out as part of publicity for the production. We have included that information here, below longer bios written as part of the NHPRC grant. 

Clicking on the name of the interviewee will take you to their interview. 

Alice Coachman-Davis (1923-2014) 

Alice Coachman Davis was a track and field athlete who specialized in the high jump. In 1948, she became the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal and may well have done so sooner had the games not been cancelled in 1940 and 1944. In 1952, Coachman-Davis was the first African American athlete to make an endorsement deal with a major company, Coca-Cola. She was also a philanthropist, establishing a foundation to aid young athletes and retired Olympians. 

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies (Track and Field) – Davis was the only woman on the U.S. track team to win a gold medal at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, and was also the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in the running high jump competition – breaking the previous 1932 world record with a jump of 5 feet 9 ½ inches. 

Althea Gibson (1927-2003) 

Althea Gibson was the first African American to win a Grand Slam tennis title in 1956 and, in all, she won eleven Grand Slam tournaments, five singles, five doubles, and one mixed doubles title. In 1957 and 1958, she won both Wimbledon and the US Nationals and was voted Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press both years. She was one of the first inductees into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame, and her five Wimbledon trophies are exhibited at the National Museum of American History. 

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies (Tennis) – Gibson was the first black to compete successfully in major international tennis, winning the women’s singles titles in Forest Hills, N.Y. in 1957 and 1958. In the same two years, Gibson won the “All-England” women’s singles championships at Wimbledon and became the first black title-holder; she was also a member of the women’s championship Wimbledon doubles teams of 1957 and 1958. 

Angelo Dundee (1921-2012) 

Angelo Dundee was a boxing trainer, manager, and corner man, best known for helping to guide the career of Muhammad Ali for twenty-one years. He also trained Sugar Ray Leonard and twenty-three other world champions. The Boxing Writers Association of America twice named him Manager of the Year and, in 1996, awarded him the Long and Meritorious Service Award. Angelo was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994. 

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies (Manager/Fight Trainer) – In his 37 professional years, Dundee has managed nine world championship fighters, including such boxing greats as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jimmy Ellis, Willie Pastrano, Carmen Basilio, Luis Rodrigues, Ultimo (Sugar) Ramos, Jose Napoles and Ralph Dupas.   

Archie Moore (1916 – 1998) 

Archie Moore had one of the longest careers in boxing history, competing from 1935 to 1963 and setting the record for knockouts with 131. He was the longest reigning World’s Light Heavyweight Champion, despite winning the title at the age of thirty-six, the oldest boxer to have done so at that point.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies

(Boxing) – Moore was the world light heavyweight boxing champion from 1952 until 1960. Winner of 194 professional fights, Moore still holds the record (143) for the most knockouts.   

Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) 

Arthur Ashe was an all-time tennis great, activist, and author. Ashe won three Grand Slam titles in a professional career lasting from 1969 to 1980. He also campaigned for civil rights and AIDS awareness, and wrote A Hard Road to Glory, a three-volume history of African American athletes.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies  (Tennis) -- a graduate of UCLA, Ashe was a member of the U.S. Davis Cup team in 1963, 1965-1970, 1975, 1977 and 1978, setting an American longevity record with a career spanning 15 years. From 1963 to 1979, he was ranked in the top ten players in the United States. In 1968, as an amateur, he won the first U.S. Open. Ashe won Australian singles in 1970 and the World Cup Tennis title in 1975. He was the first black American to win the Wimbledon men’s singles title in 1975. Ashe was appointed U.S. David Cup captain in 1980, following his retirement from active play after he suffered a heart attack. 

Benita Fitzgerald Mosley (1961- )   

Benita Fitzgerald Mosley (formerly Benita Fitzgerald-Brown) made the 1980 U.S. Olympic team but was kept from competing by the U.S. boycott of the Moscow games. She got her opportunity at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, where she won the Olympic Gold medal for the 100-meter hurdles. She went on to a highly successful career as a marketing executive. Track and Field News named her Hurdler of the Decade for the 1980s and, in 1996, she helped carry the Olympic Flag into the stadium during the opening ceremony for the Atlanta Olympic Games.   

Curt Flood (1938-1997)   

On the field, Curt Flood was a seven-time Gold Glove outfielder and three-time all-star, who led the National League in hits in 1964. He is now better known for his legal challenge to the reserve clause included in Major League Baseball contracts, which allowed teams to trade players without their consent. Although Flood lost his lawsuit, he set the stage for further challenges, which eventually proved successful and led to the creation of free agency.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies

(Baseball) – A lifetime .293 hitter, Flood played with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1958-1969 and was the winner of seven Gold Glove Awards for fielding excellence. Flood sparked the St. Louis Cardinals to two World Championships (1964 & 1967) and to a National League pennant in 1968. 

Earl Monroe (1944- ) 

Employing spectacular twists, spins, fakes, double-pumps, and dribbling, Earl Monroe was such an exciting and beloved basketball star that he earned multiple nicknames, “Earl the Pearl” and “Black Jesus.” His number has been retired by both of his professional teams, the New York Knicks, and the Baltimore Bullets, as well as his college team, Winston-Salem State. He is a member of both the Basketball Hall of Fame and NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time team. 

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Basketball) – As a senior at Winston-Salem State, Monroe averaged 41.5 points per game. A 1967 first round draft pick by the Baltimore Bullets, Monroe was named Rookie of the Year and later played on the 1973 world champion New York Knicks team.   

Edwin Moses (1955- ) 

Edwin Moses won Olympic gold medals in the 400-meter hurdle in 1976 and in 1984, as well as two World Championships, and he broke the World Record four times. He was undefeated in 122 consecutive races, over a period of nine years, nine months, and nine days. After retiring from track, Moses moved on to bobsledding, in which he also competed at an international level. He has crusaded against doping in sports, serving as Chairman of the United States Olympic Committee’s Substance Abuse, Research, and Education Committee and Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Education Committee.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies (Track and Field) – On July 25, 1976, only four months after he had first tried the intermediates, Moses won a gold medal in that event at the Montreal Summer Olympics. He also won the gold medal in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.   

Eulace Peacock (1914-1996)   

Eulace Peacock was a rival to Jesse Owens in many track and field competitions. In high school, he set a long jump record, only to have it broken by Owens later the same day. By 1935, he was frequently defeating Owens in competitions and setting world records, but he missed the 1936 Berlin Olympics due to a pulled hamstring muscle.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies

(Track and Field) – While at Temple University from 1933-38, Peacock established the record for the long-jump which lasted for over 43 years. He defeated Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalf in the 100-meter race with a time of 10.2, and also defeated Owens in the long jump with a mark of 26’3”. 

Evelyn Ashford (1957- ) 

Evelyn Ashford competed at four Olympic Games over her remarkably long career, winning four gold medals and one silver. She broke numerous national and world records in the 100m and 200m dashes. She overcame injuries and coached herself for much of her career. Track and Field News twice named her "Athlete of the Year" and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame calls her "one of the greatest track and field runners ever.”   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Track and Field) – Ashford burst onto the international track scene at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, where she finished a surprising fifth. In 1979, she stunned the track world at the World Cup in Montreal by beating world-record holder Marlies Gohr (formerly Oelsner) in the 100 meters. At the 1984 Summer Olympics, Ashford won the 100-meter gold medal, establishing an Olympic record.   

Floyd Patterson (1935-2006)   

Floyd Patterson boxed professionally from 1952 to 1972, and was twice World Heavyweight Champion. He was the youngest heavyweight to win the title and the first to win it back after losing it. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1991. 

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Boxing) – In 1956, Patterson knocked out light heavyweight champion Archie Moore to become the youngest heavyweight champion in boxing history. After losing the title to Ingemar Johansson in 1959, Patterson regained his crown in 1960 with a fifth-round knockout of Johansson in New York – the first champion ever to win back the title. 

Jerry Izenberg (1930- )   

Jerry Izenberg is a sports journalist, Emmy winner, Pulitzer Prize nominee, and author of ten books. He began writing for The Star-Ledger in 1951 while he was still a student at Rutgers University, then served in the Korean War before returning to his home state, where he has received the New Jersey Sportswriter of the Year Award five times. He faced controversy when he defended Muhammad Ali’s defiance of the draft, and is one of just five sportswriters (and one of just two newspaper columnists) who has covered every Super Bowl game.   

Jim Brown (1936- )   

Jim Brown is a former NFL Hall of Fame running back, actor, and activist. He was Rookie of the Year in 1957, NFL Most Valuable Player four times, and played in nine Pro Bowls. He never missed a game in his career from 1957 through 1965. He averaged 104.1 rushing yards per game, and is the only player in NFL history to average over 100 rushing yards per game for his career. His 5.2 yards per rush is second best among running backs. Brown was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. In 2002, The Sporting News selected him as the greatest football player of all time. He went on to have a successful acting career and worked as a civil rights activist promoting minority businesses and aiding at-risk youth.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Football) – An All-American fullback at Syracuse University, Brown was the first draft choice of the Cleveland Browns in 1957. Brown was named NFL Most Valuable Player for the 1962-63 season, and Sports Illustrated Outstanding Pro Football Player of 1964. The first player in history to rush for 10,000 yards in his career, Brown held the NFL rushing record of 12,312 yards until 1984.   

Jim Jacobs (1930-1988)   

Interviewed for his boxing expertise as a manager and documentary filmmaker, Jacobs was also a champion handball player. He has been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, the World Boxing Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and the US Handball Hall of Fame.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Fight Historian) – Jacobs is one of the leading boxing experts in the world, with an enormous collection of rare fight films.   

Joe Yancey (1910-1991)   

Joe Yancey began coaching even before he graduated from N.Y.U. in 1935. The next year, he co-founded the Pioneers Club team and became its first coach. Over his four-decades at the club, he coached numerous national champions. He also coached internationally, leading the Jamaican Olympic teams in 1948, their Gold Medal relay years of 1952 and 1956, before coaching Olympic teams for Bahamas, Trinidad, and British Guiana. He is a member of both the Black Athletes Hall of Fame and the Track and Field Hall of Fame.   

John Thompson (1941- )   

An All-American at Providence College, John Thompson then played for the Boston Celtics for two championship seasons backing up Bill Russell, and thus being nicknamed "The Caddy.” He was then the Georgetown basketball coach for twenty-seven years, in which his teams won 596 games, appeared in twenty-four consecutive postseasons, and won seven Big East tournament championships. Upon retirement, he had another successful career as a radio and TV sports commentator.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Basketball Player/Coach) – An All-American center in high school, Thompson played with Boston Celtics for two years following his graduation from Providence College. In 1972, Thompson became coach of the Georgetown University Hoyas, and, in 1984, became the first black coach to win a NCAA Division I Championship. 

John Woodruff (1915-2007)   

John Woodruff was a freshman from the University of Pittsburgh when he won the gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the 800-meter run. He won the NCAA 880-yard titles from 1937 through 1939, but gave up racing after college to join the Army, serving in World War II and the Korean War. Woodruff was a member of the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies

(Track and Field) – A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Woodruff won a gold medal in the 800-meter run at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, on the U.S. team, which included Jesse Owens. In addition to his Olympic accomplishment, Woodruff also shattered numerous records during his Pitt years from 1935 to 1939.   

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1947- )   

Known as Lew Alcindor during his record-setting college career and early professional years, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the first NBA player to play twenty seasons (1969-1989). He was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player a record six times and an NBA All-Star a record nineteen times. He also holds the record in points scored and career wins. In ESPN’s list of greatest players in NBA history, he was number two, behind only Michael Jordan. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies

(Basketball) – While in college, Jabbar led UCLA to three consecutive NCAA national titles. The only player to have won six NBA Most Valuable Player Awards (1971, ’72, ’74, ’76, ’77, ’79), Jabbar has appeared in 14 NBA All-Star games. A member of three World Champion NBA teams (more than any other player in history), Jabbar was the first pro basketball player in history to score over 32,000 career points.   

Lee Elder (1934- )   

Orphaned at age ten, Lee Elder persevered to become a world-class golfer, winning four PGA Tour events and eight PGA Tour Champions titles. He was the first African American to play in the Masters, in 1975, and on the Ryder Cup team, in 1979. In 2019, he was recognized for his “spirit, personal character and respect for the game” with the United States Golf Association’s highest honor, the Bob Jones Award.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Golf) – Elder was the first black golfer to qualify for the prestigious Masters Tournament in April 1975. In 1971, Elder won international recognition by becoming the first black to play in the South African Professional Golf Association Championships in Johannesburg, South Africa.   

Les Matthews (1921-2003)   

Les Matthews was a columnist and reporter for Amsterdam News in Harlem for over four decades, never taking a vacation, always out in the community. His nickname was "Mr. 125th Street,” which was the name of his local news column. He also wrote a theater column and a sports column.   

Mack Robinson (1914-2000) 

Despite a heart issue, Mack Robinson became one of the leading sprinters of the 1930s. He won a silver medal in the 200-meter dash at the Berlin Olympics of 1936, finishing just 0.04 seconds behind Jesse Owens. Nevertheless, when he returned home, the best job he was offered was as a street sweeper on the night shift. In later life, he worked as an usher at Dodger Stadium and as a truant officer. He was among the former Olympians to carry the giant Olympic flag into the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. His younger brother, Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Track and Field) – Older brother of baseball great Jackie Robinson, Mack Robinson in 1936 won a silver medal for the 200-meter race. 

Nelson Vails (1960- )   

Nelson Vails, nicknamed “The Cheetah,” was the first African American cyclist to win an Olympic medal, the silver medal in the sprint at the 1984 Los Angeles games. He was inducted into the US Bicycle Hall of Fame in 2009.   

Oscar Robertson (1938- )   

Oscar Robertson, nicknamed "The Big O," was a basketball star in college, the Olympics, and the NBA. He was so versatile that he became the first player to average a “triple-double” for an entire season, meaning double digits per game in points scored, rebounds, and assists. He was NBA Rookie of the Year, MVP in 1964, and an All-Star twelve times.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Basketball) – Robertson was co-captain on the gold-medal winning 1960 Olympic team. The 1961 Rookie of the Year, Robertson played with the Cincinnati Royals until 1970, and was a member of the 1971 world champion Milwaukee Bucks. He was one of the first players to challenge the system, refusing to be traded without consent. He won the case, and “free agency” eventually became the law. Robertson ranked second only to Wilt Chamberlain among the all-time leading scorers when he retired in 1977.   

Peter Westbrook (1952- )   

Fencer Peter Westbrook is a thirteen-time US national champion, a member of every U.S. Olympic fencing team from 1976 through 1996, and the first African American to win an Olympic fencing medal, the bronze medal in the individual men’s saber event at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Since 1991, he has overseen the Peter Westbrook Foundation, which has provided both fencing and academic enrichment programs to over four thousand young people from underserved communities around New York. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the US Olympic Committee and the United States Fencing Association Hall of Fame.  

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Fencing) – Westbrook has earned the distinction of being the best sabre fencer in the United States. He took up the sport as a teenager, learning the rudiments of fencing and the differences between the three basic weapons. Westbrook won an individual sabre bronze medal at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, the first American to ever win a medal in this category.   

Rafer Johnson (1935- )   

Injuries hampered Rafer Johnson at the 1956 Olympic Games, holding him to “only” a silver medal in the decathlon. Despite a car accident in 1959 which severely injured his back, Johnson came back to win the gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics. When his athletic career ended, he acted in films. A friend and supporter of Robert Kennedy, he was present when the Senator was shot and helped apprehend the assassin. In 1984, he lit the flame to open the Los Angeles Olympics.   

Sugar Ray Leonard (1956- )   

Sugar Ray Leonard won a gold medal in the 1976 Olympic games before a twenty-year professional career, during which he won world titles in the middleweight, welterweight, junior middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight divisions—the first boxer to win world titles in five different weight classes. In 2002, Ring magazine named him one of the top ten boxers of the previous 80 years.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Boxing) – Following his gold medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics, Leonard turned pro and on November 30, 1979, ko’d Wilfredo Benitez to win the welterweight crown for the first time. After losing the title to Roberto Duran in 1980, Leonard won the crown back shortly thereafter in New Orleans as Duran quit in the eighth round.   

Sydney Llewellyn (1911-1999)   

Sydney Llewellyn was a tennis coach and an archivist of the sport. He coached Althea Gibson and was her husband from 1983 to 1988. He invented the “Equiform” tennis training device. He drove a cab to earn a living while mentoring and coaching young players. In 1992, he was inducted into the Eastern Tennis Association Hall of Fame.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies

(Tennis Coach) – A tennis instructor since 1949, Llewellyn has coached numerous champions including Althea Gibson (1953-1962); Arthur Ashe (1959); and American Tennis Association National Champions Terrence Jackson (1976-1977), Bill Davis and Donald Ringgold; and many others.   

William Johnson (1899-1989)   

William Julius "Judy" Johnson was a Negro League third baseman and manager from 1921 to 1937. After retirement, he was one of the first African Americans to work as a scout and coach for major league teams. He entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Baseball) – Johnson first played on a professional Negro baseball team in 1920 with the Dayton DeMarcos in Dayton, Ohio. Throughout the 1920s, he played for the Hillsdale Ball Club in Dayton (which later became the Philly Stars), the Harrisburg Giants and the legendary Homestead Greys.   

William 'Pop' Gates (1917-1999)   

In 1938, Pop Gates led New York’s Benjamin Franklin High School basketball team to the city championship. He then went directly to the Harlem Renaissance and led them to the World Professional Championship in 1939. In 1946, months before Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball, Gates and William "Dolly" King became the first African Americans to play in the NBL, precursor to the NBA. He later played for and coached the Harlem Globetrotters and, in 1989, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Basketball) – In 1939, Gates made his professional debut as a forward with the world champion New York Renaissance (Rens), the first black professional basketball team. Gates was one of the original Harlem Globetrotters, and also played with the Washington Bears in 1945.   

Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994)   

Wilma Rudolph was the first American woman to win three gold medals in one Olympics, in 1960. Despite contracting polio at age six and being told she would never walk again, she went on to became a world-record-holding Olympic champion. She won the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year Award in both 1960 and 1961 and was elected to both the Black Athletes Hall of Fame and the National Track and Field Hall of Fame. She retired early from competition and devoted the rest of her life to teaching and community service.   

From Original Press Release – April 18, 1986, America’s Black Champions: Athletes featured in William Miles’ Black Champions Series - Biographies
(Track and Field) – With great courage and determination, Rudolph overcame scarlet fever, double pneumonia, and the polio which left her crippled at the age of four. She went on to earn a reputation as the fastest woman runner in the world. In the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, she won the 100-meter dash, defeated her opponents in the 200-meter dash with an Olympic record time of 23.3 seconds, and anchored the winning 400-meter relay team. With those three victories, she became the first American woman to win three Olympic gold medals in track.   

Zina Garrison (1963- )   

Zina Garrison is a three-time Grand Slam mixed doubles tennis champion. At the 1988 Seoul Olympics, she won a gold medal in women's doubles tennis and a bronze medal in singles. At Wimbledon in 1990, she beat Monica Seles and Steffi Graf in back-to-back matches, but lost the final to Martina Navratilova. She is the founder of the Zina Garrison Academy which provides free educational and tennis programming to young people in the Houston area.

Associated Material

Transcripts are available currently for only some of the interviews.  We are continuing to transcribe every interview and will post them online when they have been completed.

In addition to these wonderful interviews, the Film & Media Archive also holds all the paper and photographic material related to the Black Champions production.  The Finding Aid for those materials can be found here.

For questions, licensing queries, or if you would like to have access to interviews for your research or work, please contact Irene E. Taylor, Interim Curator of Film & Media at itaylor@wustl.edu or (314) 935-8378.

milescloseupwithcameraA.jpg

The William Miles Collection

William Miles (1931-2013) was an accomplished African American documentary filmmaker whose films focused on the cultural experiences and achievements of African Americans in such diverse realms as the military, the space program, sports, and New York neighborhood life. Miles grew up in Harlem where he was immersed in the vibrant culture and contributions of African Americans and was keenly aware that they were ignored by the mainstream media. He dedicated himself to bringing these hidden stories to light.  An Emmy Award winner and Academy Award  nominee, Miles produced films documenting the African American experience, which were broadcast nationwide via PBS and other outlets. His works include Remember Harlem (1981), a comprehensive look at the New York borough’s diverse history; Men of Bronze (1977), the definitive story of the black American soldiers in World War I known as the "Harlem Hellfighters”; and many others.  

The films created by Miles are a valuable resource in their own right, as they represent some of the best and earliest documentary films created by an African American filmmaker on topics related to African American life and culture. Although small segments or sound bites from these interviews were selected for use in Black Champions, the vast majority of interview material has never before been made available to researchers, students, or the public. This unseen footage constitutes an impressive oral history of many of the 20th century’s most influential African American athletes, nearly half of whom are now deceased. The interviews cast light on the history of racial discrimination in sports, efforts of athletes to overcome these imposed restrictions, and the ways in which these world-class competitors transformed American and international culture. They also provide first-hand accounts that illustrate the intersection of sports and civil rights, a topic that remains relevant today as controversy has recently erupted around the protest of the national anthem at sporting events.

nhprc-logo.jpg

Digitization and Reassembly Grant Project

Thanks to a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC), the Film & Media Archive undertook to digitize and reassemble all interviews conducted for Black Champions.  The source material for these materials comprised the digitization of the 32 interviews consists of 50 reels of 16mm color film negatives and 70 reels of ¼” magnetic audiotape, commonly known as reel-to-reel. In some instances, the original negative could not be located, in which case the next generation positive picture element was used. In addition, the three one-hour-long final broadcast episodes, which consist of six 16mm color answer prints and six 16mm magnetic sound tracks, were digitized as part of the grant. Interview footage from the Black Champions episodes were digitally reinserted into the outtakes in order to provide first-time access to the complete interviews.  The capture format for the 16mm film was 2K DPX (10-bit log, 2048x1536, 24fps). The capture format for the ¼” sound reels was PCM .WAV (24-bit/96kHz).  This process includes the digitization of 129 analog picture and sound elements. Digitization generated 129 digital preservation files. These audio and video files were then  reassembled to generate 35 intermediate files (32 interview files and 3 episode files) and 35 access files.

Contact Us!

The Film & Media Archive would love to hear from you.  Please contact Special Collections at (314) 935-5495 or spec@wumail.wustl.edu

You can also reach out directly to Irene E. Taylor, Interim Curator of Film & Media at (314) 935-8378 or itaylor@wustl.edu