Game Changer: John McLendon and the Secret Game

by John Coy and Randy DuBurke

In 1944, the Duke University Medical School basketball team played a secret game... read more

In 1944, the Duke University Medical School basketball team played a secret game against five members of the Eagles from the North Carolina College of Negroes in defiance of segregation laws. The match was arranged by Eagles coach John McLendon, who had an African American father and Delaware Indian mother, and believed an interracial game could help erase prejudice. The Eagles blew out Duke with a final score of 88 to 44, dominating the play with their new fast-break attacking style. A second game of shirts and skins followed, with players from both teams mixing to make a more evenly matched competition. In a post-game gathering at the Eagles’ dormitory, all players agreed to keep the game secret in order to protect one another and Coach McLendon from legal liability or social retribution. A concluding sentence of this captivating story pays tribute to Coach McLendon and the players of both teams who “were years ahead of their time” on the road to athletic racial integration. (Ages 6–10)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2016

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