BY LARRY VAUGHT
Former Kentucky quarterback Paul Karem hopes the release of “Black in Blue,” a documentary about the four African-American football players at UK who broke the color barrier in the SEC, will finally help more realize the critical role that Kentucky football played in racial integration in the southern United States.
The documentary will be shown July 28 in a “sneak preview” in Owensboro RiverPark Center. Karem says about 1,000 of the 1,500 available seats have already been sold. The movie will be shown again Aug. 4 in Middlesboro, the hometown of Greg Page — one of the racial pioneers in 1967. Coach Mark Stoops also plans to show the documentary to his team along with a showing at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville for the families of the four African-American players and major donors to the project.
“Everybody knows about the 1966 NCAA championship game (when Texas Western with an all African-American team beat UK) but Nate (Northington) and Greg sign to play football at Kentucky before that game was ever played,” Karem said. “Kentucky not only had the first African-Americans to play in a SEC athletics event, but we had the first two four-year players and the first African-American elected team captain by white players. People need to know this.”
Karem still vividly remembers the game at Mississippi where the Kentucky players were the only African-Americans in the stadium. He remembers times at away games where the black players were refused service for pregame or postgame meals.
“I think the courage these guys had was remarkable,” Karem said. “It’s hard to explain what it was like. Those four guys — Wilbur Hackett, Houston Hogg, Greg Page and Nate Northington — had a deep, deep humility. They never worried about calling attention to themselves for what they did. That’s part of the reason it has been such a long journey to get this story out there but now it is going to be where everybody will see what UK did to integrate SEC athletics.”