The most natural way to make an impression and attract admiration from your adversary is to win in everything that you do. As the saying goes, in spite of who you are, you can achieve greatness if you work hard enough. Herbert Douglas and Bob Lott, executive producers of the film, The Renaissance Period of the African Americans in Sports teamed up with Hennessy VS to premiere this necessary piece of history that most are incognizant of. Twenty-two minutes of unprecedented documentary style, the film encapsulated the essence of the Summer Berlin Olympic Games of 1936, where 9 African American athletes opened the doorway for black people through a world-stage of track & field.
Introduced by the youngest African American Olympic medalist Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, at 92 years old, the oldest living African American medalist who’s name just happens to be Douglas as well, was born only 59 years after slavery. Herbert P. Douglas deemed it time he remind the world of this critical era where blacks erased the face of white racial supremacy forevermore, paving the foundation for generations to come. He was a young boy from Pittsburg whose inspiration was first bestowed by his father who lost his sight at 41, and though disadvantaged, he lived for many years without excuse. He followed the accolades of great Jesse Owens, along with the 8 other Olympians to dominate in the ’36 Nazi games, making history as we know it. Douglas and young African Americans alike found precedents and would also set world records that ultimately changed the face of sports to what we know it to be today: a multibillion dollar industry heavily fueled by the athletic talents of African Americans. The landscape of which we live was very much different than that of Mr. Douglas’ time. The film pieces together a period in history where black athletes were a rarity.
Many people, even celebrated athletes of modern day don’t even know the names of the shoulders we stand on: John Woodruff, “Mack” Robinson, Ralph Metcalfe and the others would leave such an impression on the world with their athletic abilities. They also valued education and professionalism within and around their communities. Sports was just the catalyst used to provide insight to those weak and ill-minded. Aside from boxing, in those days, blacks were prohibited from participating in most sports as they were privileges bestowed to whites.
It was a triumph if there was ever such thing. On a stage meant to prove Ayran superiority, these nine athletes would negate Hitler’s notions, therefore opening minds worldwide. The message to be shared is that knowledge is key and history defines our future. Although we may thrive in athletics, we are also more than capable of thriving in education, and as businessmen and businesswomen. And in light of familiar yet recent examples of ignorance like the scandal surrounding LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling and his views on blacks in America, it is important for today’s youth to know where their history begins, and what it takes to achieve excellence and honor against all odds.
With hopes to first promote the awareness of the film and its importance to HBCU’s, Division One Schools and the University of Pittsburg by this fall, it is the intension of Mr. Herbert Douglas and the attached luminaries to provide context and thought to that of what is not only African American History, but Black History overall; the beginning, the middle and what’s to be continued.
Check out what Herbert Douglas had to say:
Q: What was your inspiration growing up to enter into such intimidating arena’s such as the Olympic Games, especially during your time?
A: When my dad was 41 and my sister was being born, my mother was 27 and I was 5 years old. As he was driving his car to see his newborn child, he had a massive stroke, and never saw another day again, but lived to be only twenty something days younger than I am today at 92. He had a seeing-eye dog, the fourth one in the US at the time, so if I were to psycho-analyze it, I get my drive from him. And even with those constraints, he still maintained a business in Pittsburg that raised me and my sister. My determination came from the fact that if this guy could be sight-less and do all the things that I could do, than I should be able to do something by having my sight. But more specifically to the film is me living through it and seeing it during the 1930s, there was no blacks in baseball, basketball, or football but these 9 guys showed the world that we could compete against anybody on this planet. We could run, jump and throw. I always thought about it, and thought it was time to reveal.
Q: Already an inspiration with your accolades alone, and to be 92 years young today, how do you stay fit at your age?
A: It just grew on me and I didn’t even realize it. Up until I was 66, I jogged. Then I started walking shortly after a friend of mine passed, Jack Kelly who made three Olympic teams, Grace Kelly’s brother, he was a great athlete. So I started walking, and then ten years ago when I moved from outside of Philadelphia into this complex that had a lap-pool, I started swimming a quarter-a-mile every other day. So if you start something, don’t ever stop, keep doing it.
Q: How do you feel the LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling Scandal has affected African American athletes, African Americans in general?
A: Sterling did one of the best things that he could do for us because he made us feel as though now, we can own a team. And they should band together and own a team like anybody else. This is going to open a door, and the only reason, we know why, their product is black. That’s where we are now starting to capitalize on.
Q: Were there any other sports aside from running track & field that you wanted to try before becoming an Olympian? What was it that inspired your training process?
A: When I met Jesse Owens at the age of 14, I wanted to be an Olympian. At the time, I couldn’t be a baseball player, or a football player, so that’s why I concentrated. And you have to have that type of leadership, someone to follow and set the way. And that’s what most of us did back then. We had to really focus, some of us accomplishing things never done before.
Read on to see what other fun events Hennessy has hosted: