Maya Washington, Author - Through the Banks of the Red Cedar

Maya Washington, Author
Through the Banks of the Red Cedar


I turned 18 in 1960 and have always identified myself as “a man of the ’60s.”  Here’s one thing I liked about the 1960s: the end of segregation, measured not in legal decisions, but human beings.  In 1961, George Ireland, the coach of the men’s basketball team at Loyola University of Chicago broke a long-standing “gentleman’s agreement.” He had four African-Americans on the floor in every game, and the next year, he had an all-Black lineup when Loyola played Wyoming. And the year after that Ireland’s Ramblers played five Blacks in the finals of the 1963 NCAA tournament.

But they didn’t win.  In 1966, Texas Western did. And made history. The school now known as UTEP, the University of Texas-El Paso won the NCAA championship with Coach Don Haskins not just playing an all-black lineup…he started five Blacks.

They made a movie about it, in 2006 and Glory Road had a run as number one. It was 40 years after the fact.  The idea of making a movie like Glory Road in 1966 or seven or eight would have scared the studios out of their wits.  Too controversial.

Today, about 75 percent of NBA players are African American and in the NFL it’s approximately 57.5 percent. And it was back in the 1960s that big-time college football was also making some room at the top for talented Black athletes. At least Football Coach Duffy Daugherty and Athletic Director Biggie Munn were aggressively doing so at Michigan State University. Their program’s recruitment of Southern Blacks to play in East Lansing was called by some “the Underground Railway.”

Gene Washington, a wide receiver from La Porte, Texas, got on board in 1963.  His story is at the heart of our guest Maya Washington’s new book Through the Banks of the Red Cedar.


Maya Washington is an American filmmaker, actress, playwright, poet, writer, visualist, and arts educator. With a bachelor of arts in theatre from the University of Southern California and an master of fine arts in creative writing from Hamline University, Washington has garnered awards from[1]Jerome Foundation,[2] Minnesota State Arts Board,[3] Minnesota Film and Television, and many more. Her scholarship and creative projects approach issues of diversity and inclusion. Her film work has had a global reach, in Toronto, Budapest, Hong Kong, Berlin, and Rome.[4]

She wrote and directed the 2011 short film[5] White Space starring Ryan Lane, a selection of African American Short Films syndicated series, which follows the life of a deaf performance poet, and was featured as an official selection in over two dozen[6] film festivals, winning many awards. She produced and starred in Life Coach Chronicles (2013), an award-winning web series about friends and families, their circumstances, and their situations from writer and director Freda C. Hobbs. She wrote, directed, and starred in the award-winning short film Clear (2018) about an exoneree reconnecting with her daughter after serving 16 years for a crime she did not commit.[citation needed]

In 2018, Washington released her first feature-length documentary,[7] Through the Banks of the Red Cedar, premiering at the Detroit Free Press[8] Freep Film Festival. The film follows the 50-year legacy of Washington’s father, Minnesota Vikings wide-receiver[9] Gene Washington, on his journey from the segregated south to Michigan State University, where his teammates and he, led by head coach Duffy Daugherty, played on the first fully racially integrated college football teams, the 1965 and 1966 Spartans football teams.




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