Documentary about a secret basketball game played between black and white teams

Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits

... Dan Klores’s stunning four-hour documentary film, “Black Magic,” which will receive a Peabody Award on Monday, opens with a scene from America in 1944 that will seem for some people as ancient and backward as the Middle Ages.

It was a Sunday morning in March in Durham, N.C. A team of white basketball players from the Duke University Medical School who had bragged that they were the best players in the state had agreed to play an illegal game against an equally proud team from the North Carolina College for Negroes.

There is no way to overstate the danger of such a meeting. Black people in Durham were not even supposed to look too closely at white people. Some would step off the sidewalk into the street as a white person approached. For these two teams to play a basketball game was considered improper contact of the highest order.

As the white players walked toward the North Carolina College gym, they pulled their jackets over their heads. The game was to be kept as secret as a meeting of criminal conspirators, which is what the participants actually were. In addition to the coaches and the players, there were two referees and a timekeeper. No spectators. No cheerleaders. Just two teams going at it in an otherwise empty (and securely locked) gym.

North Carolina College won 88-44, but the participants needed very little urging to keep their lips sealed. The fact that the game was played was kept secret from the public for half a century....

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