Black in Blue — story of UK, SEC integration — will have broadcast premier Monday on KET

Statues outside the stadium at the University of Kentucky of the four football players who broke the color line in the Southeastern Conference in the 1960s. From left to right, Greg Page, Nate Northington, Wilbur Hackett, and Houston Hogg. (Photo by Paul Wagner)

By LARRY VAUGHT

What has been a labor of love for former University of Kentucky football player Paul Karen will finally be available for UK fans — and everyone else — to see.

Black in Blue, the feature-length documentary film that tells the story of four of Karem’s UK African-American teammates who broke the color barrier not only at UK but also in the Southeastern Conference, will have its broadcast premiere on Kentucky Educational Television April 20 at 9 p.m.

“It will also be broadcast on similar public broadcasting channels throughout the United States but mainly in the Southern states,” Karem, executive producer for the documentary, said.

It was over 50 years ago on Sept. 27, 1967, that UK’s Nate Northington became the first African-American player to play in a SEC game. The game at Ole Miss was the same day that Greg Page, Northington’s roommate and another of the racial pioneers at UK, had died from a practice injury.

Northington eventually left the team but two other black teammates — Houston Hogg and Wilbur Hackett — stayed with the Wildcats despite the racist remarks and treatment they faced in SEC.

Karem led the drive that finally got Northington, Page, Hogg and Hackett honored by having a statue in their honor placed outside the UK Football Training Facility.

Nate Northington recently visited the capital of Kentucky, where he was recruited by Governor Ned Breathitt to sign with UK as the first black scholarship athlete to play sports in the Southeastern Conference. (Photo by Guy Mendes)

“But they are not the only heroes of Black in Blue. Indeed, it was no fluke that this remarkable achievement happened at Kentucky, where the student newspaper, the university board, the president, the coach and even the governor supported the integration of the SEC, which was, at the time, the symbol and substance of white supremacy in the South,” director Paul Wagner, an Academy Award winner, said.

The film has an original gospel music score by Kentucky’s own Linkin’ Bridge.

There have been private viewings of Black in Blue across the state but this will be the first time for most to see this powerful documentary.

Myself I am hoping that Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari will be inspired and invite Hackett or Northington to join him on “Coffee with Cal” — his new weekly Facebook live show. Calipari certainly knows the importance of history and sharing this story with those who might not watch KET or other PBS stations would be a wonderful gesture by him for the racial pioneers as well as all of BBN.

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