In 1944, Durham, NC, was home to two of the best college basketball teams in the country: the all-white Duke University Medical School team and the North Carolina College for Negroes. The teams were both nearly unbeatable in their respective leagues and knew of each other's successes on the court. But in segregated North Carolina, where blacks weren't even allowed to ride white buses, black colleges certainly didn't play basketball against white ones.
But the competitive nature of the coaches and players overrode social taboos of the time, and in a highly charged and clandestine game, the two teams squared off. The coaches signed an agreement to keep the event confidential, the doors of the gym were locked from the inside, and the two teams squared off in an unofficial - but with a clock and a referee - game to see which team was truly Durham's finest.
THE SECRET GAME is a deeply - researched and intimate look into the players, coaches, and circumstances that made the game and season special, and the racial climate of a Southern city at the height of Jim Crow. It's a story of overcoming barriers, and how sports helped bridge the gap between black and white long before the civil rights movement took hold.
Scott Ellsworth is an award-winning historian at the University of Michigan, whose research has been featured on the Today Show, ABC News Nightline, Good Morning America, National Public Radio, the History Channel, and PBS's the American Experience. He has written about America history for The New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. An expert in twentieth century American life, he spent a decade as a historian at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian. Ellsworth is the author of Death in the Promised Land, an account of the 1921 Tulsa race riots. He lives in Ann Arbor with his wife and twin sons.