Winner 2008

Black Magic

ESPN Films in association with Shoot the Moon Productions

Many stories link race and athletics in America. Black Magic tells one too long obscured. The key context in this superb four-hour documentary is the role of the Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), institutions central to African-American history and to the struggle for civil rights. The key element in that context is basketball. Using segments from more than 200 hours of interviews and found film footage, the documentary chronicles the efforts of coaches and players at the HBCUs. With far fewer resources than those found at white colleges, these men created a form of the game that repeatedly astonished their counterparts in major white institutions. In secret games, they not only demonstrated new styles and forms of play, they beat their opponents handily. Rare struggles on the court were matched by far more in the streets, at lunch counters, and on buses. Achievements of both kinds, as well as the efforts of civil rights leaders and policy makers, led to the integration of historically white universities and their athletic programs. With that success came varying degrees of decline in basketball at HBCUs, as star players were recruited by high profile athletic programs. But the story never ended. Dedicated coaches and committed players continue to lead HBCU athletic programs. The story of race and athletics in America has not ended, but one more chapter has now been written. For completing that chapter, a Peabody Award goes to Black Magic.


Executive producers: John Skipper, Keith Clinkscales, Connor Schell, John Dahl. Producers: Earl Monroe, Libby Geist, David Zieff. Director: Dan Klores. Writers: Dan Klores, Charles Stuart. Narrators: Samuel L. Jackson, Wynton Marsalis. Videographers: Claudia Raschke-Robinson, Buddy Squires. Editors: David Zieff, Michael Levine, Eliza Kurtz.