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"Black and Blue" documentary premieres in Grand Rapids

On February 13, the documentary "Black and Blue" will premiere at the Gerald R. Ford Museum, highlighting the life-long friendship developed between teammates Gerald Ford and Willis Ward and the discrimination Ward faced playing football at U of M.
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Gerald R. Ford Museum

303 Pearl Street in Grand Rapids


Free Public Showing/ Q&A:

February 13, 7pm

Q&A after with Brian Kruger and Buzz Thomas


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"Bringing this documentary to Grand Rapids is really going to make a big impact. It's like a movie on Henry Ford going to Dearborn. This really is an awesome opportunity," says Brian Kruger, producer of "Black and Blue."

On February 13, The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and Grand Rapids Community Foundation are premiering "Black & Blue" in honor of Black History Month.

"Black and Blue" is a documentary reflecting on a lifelong friendship developed in the face of racial discrimination between University of Michigan football teammates, Gerald Ford, a Grand Rapids native and Willis Ward, an African American from Detroit.

In 1934, the University of Michigan was scheduled to play Georgia Tech in football. Due to Jim Crow laws, Georgia Tech refused to play with any African American players on the field, leading University of Michigan to sit out their star, Ward. These actions lead to pre-game protest from students, faculty and specifically Gerald Ford.

Ford decided to take a stand against the injustice by threatening to quit and not play in the game, but eventually, by the request of Ward, he took the field without his friend.

"He wasn't thinking of Congress. He wasn't thinking of government. Ford was just doing something simply because it was right," said Kruger.

Ford stood up against racial discrimination long before the Civil Rights movement began and created a friendship deep ingrained in honor and respect.

"The friendship has truly lasted beyond the grave," said Kruger, as both men’s families still feel the power of their bond.

When the placement of Ford’s statue was being considered at the US Capitol, Ward’s family came to honor and support Ford. Ward’s grandson, former State Senator, Buzz Thomas, spoke on Ford’s behalf. Their efforts helped to get the statue approved.

The Emmy nominated filmmakers, Kruger and Buddy Moorehouse of Stunt3 Media, developed the film to have Ward’s story to be told, to highlight the discrimination he faced at U of M that seemed to have been buried in history. Ward is the only U of M football player to have been benched for his race and they want to give him the recognition he deserves.

“President Ford’s place in history has been taken care of,” said Kruger. “Ward deserves a spot too, and we hope to get him that.”

“Ford and Ward show that skin color doesn’t matter, you just gotta take care of one another,” Kruger said. “I think that is an important message of true character that people and students need to see.”                                          

Kruger and Moorehouse's goal is to bring an educational copy of the documentary into every public school in Michigan to reach as many youth and teens as possible. The copy includes a study guide and lesson plan to leverage the experience for the students. He is currently raising funds for this effort.

Kruger hopes his efforts will make Ward a household name.

"I don't want a pat on the back for making this; I just hope the right things happen and Ward's story gets heard, because it's a darn good one," said Kruger.


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