The Forgotten Four, four African-American men who broke the pro football color barrier in 1946, are to be the subject of an original documentary produced by New York-based entertainment network Epix.
Narrated by Tony Award-winner Jeffrey Wright and produced by Emmy Award-winner Ross Greenburg, Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football, tells the story of four African-Americans – Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley and Bill Willis – who transcended race to become full-fledged NFL pros a year before Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey were credited with integrating pro baseball.
Washington and Strode signed with the Los Angeles Rams; Marion Motley and Bill Willis to the Cleveland Browns.
Airing as an Epix Original Documentary on September 23 at 8 p.m. EST, the 60-minute documentary will depict the hardships of The Forgotten Four through the recollections of their surviving families and noted historians. Interview subjects include Kenny Washington’s daughter Karin L. Cohen, Woody Strode’s son Kalai Strode, Marion Motley’s grandson Tony Motley, and Bill Willis’ sons Clem and William Willis, Jr.
Mike Brown, son of the late Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown, is also interviewed, with such football legends as Don Shula, Bob Gain, Sherman Howard, Jim Hardy and George Tallaferro contributing insights. Writers and historians also offering commentary and perspective include The Pro Football Hall Of Fame’s Joe Horrigan, the National Museum of African American Hsitory and Culture’s Lonnie G. Bunch, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s Khalil Gibran Huhammad, USA Today’s Jarrett Bell and the Los Angeles Sentinel’s Brad Pye Jr.
To commemorate the documentary’s release, Epix has teamed up with the National Football League to conduct local screenings of the program in NFL team markets across the U.S., followed by panel discussions on the current state of race relations and athletics, starting with the Denver Broncos on August 2.
“Epix is pleased to work with the National Football League to bring the story of these trailblazers in civil rights and professional sports to a new national audience,” said Mark Greenberg, Epix president and CEO, in a statement. “We believe Forgotten Four presents an insightful and informative account of the profound impact these courageous men had on the sport.”
Directed by Johnson McKelvy, Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football, is exec produced by Wesley E. Smith and Ross Bernard. Jill Burkhart is producing for Epix, and former NFL star quarterback Donovan McNabb served as creative consultant for the film.