The Sports, Society, and Technology (SST) Program hosted a screening of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice and a post-film panel on October 2, 2017 in the Student Center Theater on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Co-sponsors of the event included the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, the School of History and Sociology (HSOC), and the Black Feminist Think Tank located within HSOC. Faculty and students in the SST program study sport in the context of historical and contemporary culture.
Olympic Pride, American Prejudice is a documentary film exploring the experiences of 18 African American Olympians who defied Jim Crow and Adolf Hitler to win hearts and medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
The documentary is the creation of Atlanta filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper. The film was narrated and executive produced by Blair Underwood. John Dewberry, former Georgia Tech quarterback (1983-1985) who currently heads Dewberry Capital and is a patron of the documentary. Dewberry introduced Olympic Pride, American Prejudice to a standing room only audience of Georgia Tech students and Atlanta community members.
Also attending the screening were several honored guests and Atlanta-based members of the production staff: Michael A. Draper (Executive Producer); John and Jaime Dewberry (Patrons of Olympic Pride); Lacy Barnes (Line Producer); Cheryl Rogers (Composer) whose son Charlie Rogers is a Georgia Tech student; Tandi Reddick (Associate Producer). Ivan Allen College Dean Jacqueline Royster and HSOC Chair Eric Schatzberg also attended the screening as did Homer and Karen Rice. Homer Rice is a former athletic director (1980-1997) at Georgia Tech, a SST supporter, and was an IAC Dean’s Appreciation Award recipient in 2016.
“Set against the strained and turbulent atmosphere of a racially divided America, which was torn between boycotting Hitler’s Olympics or participating in the Third Reich’s grandest affair, the documentary follows 16 men and two women before, during and after their heroic turn at the Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. They represented a country that considered them second-class citizens and competed in a country that rolled out the red carpet in spite of an undercurrent of Aryan superiority and anti-Semitism. They were world heroes yet returned home to a short-lived glory. This story is complicated. This story is triumphant but unheralded. This story is a vital part of history and is as relevant today as it was almost 80 years ago. Since the 1936 Olympics was a well-documented event, this film will utilize the wealth of newsreel material, newspaper articles, photographs, personal interviews and never-before-seen footage as well as resources from the personal archival collections of Olympians and organizations in both the U.S. and Germany.” The film is produced by Coffee Bluff Pictures.
Filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper was joined on the post-film panel by Georgia Tech Professors Johnny Smith (HSOC) and Greg Zinman (School of Literature, Media and Communication). Ms. Draper is the founder of Coffee Bluff Pictures, a Georgia-based independent film venture. Her films include the critically acclaimed Olympic Pride and American Prejudice as well as Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution. Johnny Smith is the Julius C. “Bud” Shaw Professor of Sports, Society, and Technology. His research and teaching focuses on the history of sports, race, and American culture. His newest book, Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X (written with Randy Roberts), illuminates the pivotal relationship between the famous boxer and the Muslim minister. In 2017, Blood Brothers won the North American Society for Sport History Book Award. Gregory Zinman’s research interests include experimental film and media, artists’ film and video, digital aesthetics, the moving image online, and early computer films. He is currently finishing his first book, Handmade: The Moving Image Without Photography and serves as a curatorial consultant to the Yale University Art Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Professor Zinman also recently taught a Sport and Film class at Georgia Tech. The panel was moderated by Mary McDonald, the Homer C. Rice Chair in Sports and Society.
The audience gave the documentary a standing-ovation at the film’s conclusion. Then audience members asked the panelist numerous questions. During the discussion Ms. Draper shared the inspiration for her making Olympic Pride and American Prejudice, the hard work of her production team, as well as the need to develop, produce and distribute compelling stories about African Americans and under-represented groups as they embark on complicated journeys. Professors Smith and Zinman added their disciplinary expertise, lauding the film for its social relevance since the 18 athletes’ stories serve as important antecedents to the Civil Rights movement including sports-led notions of progress such as when Jackie Robinson helped to integrate major league baseball. This linkage is particularly evident as Robinson’s older brother Mac was a member of track team earning a silver medal in the 200 meters behind the gold winning performance of more celebrated 1936 Olympics star Jesse Owens.
Professor McDonald noted that the discussion also focused on the contemporary relevance of the documentary in an era where black athletes are using their sporting visibility as platforms to raise awareness about continuing racial inequalities. Both Professors Smith and Zinman praised Olympic Pride and American Prejudice for its historical accuracy, educational value, and dramatic effect.
McDonald who also directs the Sports, Society, and Technology Program and Research Center commented: “I was impressed with the content of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice in uncovering important stories that need to be told. The documentary reveals that all 18 African American competitors had to push back against discrimination and prejudice simply to earn their place on the 1936 team, once again exposing the myth that somehow sport exists apart from politics. Olympic Pride and American Prejudice reveals the important ways race relations and the continuing need to struggle against inequalities help to constitute every aspect of American life including sport.”
For more information about the film, visit the Olympic Pride, American Prejudice website.