A racial incident surrounding the 1934 Michigan football team has been made into a play that will debut at the Ford Museum during Black History Month.

In 1934, the football team from Georgia Tech tried to force the Michigan football team to bench its lone black player, Willis Ward, for a game in Ann Arbor. One Michigan player, Gerald Ford, threatened to quit the team if that happened.

Ford was later convinced by Ward to go out on the field, but the experience left an indelible mark on both Ford and Ward as they continued to fight for civil rights throughout their careersThis historic event has been made into the play, “Victors of Character,” which was commissioned by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and will be performed for the first time, Feb. 15 and 16 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

The play was written by Grand Valley State University Theater Professor Dr. Allison Manville Metz and is directed by Jason James Flannery.

“President Ford showed character and integrity when he took a stand for his teammate at the University of Michigan,” said Joe Calvaruso, director, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. “His courage is an inspiration to future generations of students to do the right thing when faced with a challenge.”

The play will be shown to school groups at the Ford Museum on February 15 and 16. The one public performance scheduled for the evening of February 15 has already sold out.

The Michigan football had previously honored Ford's support of Ward by using jersey numbers reminiscent of the 1934 team.


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