EAST LANSING, Mich. — Gene Washington grew up in a segregated Texas town.
It wasn’t until Michigan State University Football Coach Duffy Daugherty held a coaching clinic in Texas that Washington even considered attending a predominantly white institution like MSU, even to play football.
But he did, and he helped to lead a racially diverse Green and White squad to two national titles.
His daughter, Maya Washington, made a film about her father's historic journey, "Through the Banks of the Red Cedar," which airs on the Big Ten Network at 6:30PM tonight.
As a filmmaker, Washington is grateful to be able to share her craft with viewers after such a tumultuous year.
“For us to have a chance to share it with audiences nationwide on the Big Ten Network over the holidays is just so amazing. I’m so grateful and just super excited,” she said.
Her father was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011 for his monumental victories on the pitch despite the racism he faced off the field.
Through her work on this film, Washington developed a deep appreciation for the Spartan family.
“I didn't get a chance to be a Spartan. So to kind of find out this important history now to learn all the amazing things that my dad's generation really did under the guidance of John Hannah, the university president at the time,” said Washington.
Hannah was not only the university’s president, he was also the first chairperson of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. His work at the university as well as his work with the commission changed the face of football forever, according to Washington.
“A lot of the important legislation that were going on between '63 and '67, when my dad was at Michigan State, really had an impact on our country moving forward. So to learn that my dad as a Spartan was a part of this important chapter in history is pretty phenomenal,” said Washington.
She views herself as a Spartan at heart.
“If you’ll have me as an honorary Spartan, I will always be happy to take you up on that. It's just really remarkable. I’m so grateful that my family is connected to this history and to where you are.”
Tonight is the last chance to see the film for 2020 but Washington is still working on bringing her father’s story to more people.
“I’m not going to say this is the end. Of course, in 2021 we’re going to keep finding ways to bring it to audiences but that may take some time,” Washington told Fox 47.
Tune in to the Big Ten Network at 6:30 PM eastern tonight to watch the full film.