“An important history lesson that is not only expertly crafted but is long overdue.”

by Martin Hafer

We all know that Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play pro sports in America, right? Wrong!! Despite most American sports fans knowing about Robinson being the first black baseball player in the previously all-white leagues, few today realize that it was American professional football that first broke the color barrier.

Heck, I am a retired history teacher and I didn’t even know this–that is until I saw a great documentary, Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football. This great documentary just debuted on Netflix and is from the Epix channel–and it’s well worth seeing and amazingly educational.

Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football
Directed by
Johnson McKelvy
Aaron Cohen
Release Date
23 September 2014
Martin’s Grade: A+

While the four referred to in the title of this film began playing pro football a year before Robinson played in the National League, the film actually goes back quite a bit further with a brief history lesson. Back in 1920, Fritz Pollard not only became the first black player in the white football league, but he even coached the team. In the 1930s, once again, two more black NFL players were in the league.

However, these two appearances were not to last and the first permanent players that remained in the league and ushered in many more were the four who were the subject of the documentary. Kenny Washington and Woody Strode for the Los Angeles Rams were the first NFL Black players in the 1940s and this same year also saw two Black players for the Cleveland Browns in the new rival All-American Football Conference.
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The film is their story and is assembled brilliantly. With a terrific combination of evocative music, very compelling stories and great filmmaking, it’s a film even non-sports fans will appreciate. A truly inspirational and well-made documentary from start to finish. A must-see for sports-fans and non-sports-fans alike to enjoy.