Recently I watched "Remember the Titans", the movie about TC Williams High School’s football team in Alexandria, Virginia. It was about the first year after the schools in Alexandria had been uniquely integrated in the era of busing in the early 1970s. For a number of years had people tell me for various reasons that I really need to see the film.
The movie seemed to be basically correct from my memories of the time period but either skipped over some information or misrepresented some information to make it appear to be a more difficult integration period. The film is a very captivating film and when I watched it on network TV at home I got entirely engrossed in it and did not notice my surrounding in the house, much as I have done with good movies at the theatre.
Now for some background on me in relation to the film. At the time of story I was a student at James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia a neighboring high school in an adjoining jurisdiction, Fairfax County. I referred back to my high school annual after the movie to confirm some of this information.
Early in the movie the coach of TC Williams tells his team after the first game thy will play no more high schools with black players, with the reference the film to be that the other high schools on the schedule were still segregated black high schools. The major problem with this is that many of the teams they played were in Fairfax County which had integrated years before. Now it was neighborhood school integration, which meant you attended the school nearest you and there was no effort to get a balance of race in all schools by such means as busing. It did also mean that since large areas were predominately white that their high schools were predominately white also. So my high school was integrated and had blacks and whites it was largely white, but not lily white as he inferred. Looking at the picture if team in year book it had at least one black on it. In addition in my junior year (1971-72) the vice-president of the student coun cil at Madison was a black elected by the students. There was a black organization also. As a side note I was treasurer of the student council my senior year in 1972-73.
The reason that the other schools largely hated TC Williams in athletics those early years was that the size presented an unfair advantage and they ran away with titles. Although the schools in the area were large compared to other areas I have lived in since, we were in the top classification in Virginia and most high schools in that class had 2000-3000 students who were freshman to seniors. TC Williams because of the unique integration done had a population of 2500 students (juniors and seniors) to draw from thereby being equivalent to a 5000 student high school. This occurred because the court solution had been that there would be to high schools in Alexandria and that one would be juniors and seniors and the other school would contain the freshmen and sophomores. As we were already in the top classification there was nowhere up to move TC Williams. I am sure there was difficulty in learning t play together initially for several reaso ns, one being the race issue played up, but also secondly that they had been rivals on the field and now fewer opportunities to get the starting positions.
My high school did play TC Williams that year. I think I even saw a reference to it in the film as it flashed through several quick backdrops for some games. Madison is the Warhawks and I think I saw a banner saying something about the Warhawks. We did get beat by TC Williams by a good margin. Since my friends and I attended mist games at home and on the road there is a good likelihood I was at the game but I have no real memories of games that year standing out. Losing to TC Williams was just another loss that year as we lost most of our games.
If you have not seen "Remember the Titans" it is a good movie and is interesting but keep in mind it is a movie ad not a documentary and a presentation through the director’s eyes, so take what you see with a grain of salt and realize that although race conditions were by no means perfect, and perfection has not been achieved yet, it was not necessarily as bad as they tried to present. As a sports motivation film of watching a team come together as a team it was really a great move.
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