This online exhibit had its origins in a small physical exhibit in the reading room of the Bentley Historical Library. That exhibit, created by Emily Swenson, Greg Kinney, and Brian Williams, focused on Willis Ward's experience as a student at the University of Michigan. The continuing interest in Ward, some newly accessible sources (public records through ancestry.com, African American newspapers through ProQuest and newspapers.com, and some new archival collections) and recent scholarship on race and college athletics, as well as contemporary events, prompted the Bentley to take a broader look at Ward's life and legacy—one that deals with the notorious Georgia Tech benching, to be sure, but considers the broader context of family, community, campus, and career.

This exhibit is the work of Bentley Historical Library staff members Greg Kinney, Caitlin Moriarity, Andrew Rutledge, and Brian Williams, with editorial contributions from Lara Zielin.

The exhibit draws on the work of many previous researchers, most notably John Behee and Tyran Kai Steward. The following bibliography cites the principal primary and secondary sources consulted.


Sources Consulted


- The Reminiscences of Mr. Willis F. Ward. Owen W. Bombard Interviews Series, 1951¬–1961. Ford Motor Company Archives, Benson Ford Research Center, May 1955 (transcript)
- Willis Ward, Football, 1932–1934; Track, 1933–1935, Detroit, MI [interviews]. John Behee Sound Recordings. 1970.
- Willis Ward. David S. Pollack, Composite Oral History Accessions (Accession Number 2004-NLF-033), Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, 1983  (transcript)
- Willis Ward Says the Alumni Prevailed Upon Jerry Ford to Play in the Georgia Tech Game [interview for 1976 Ford election campaign], n.d.  (youtube video)

Archival Collections

Ancestry.com (for census records; birth, marriage and death records, city directories, Detroit Northwestern H.S. 1931 Norwester yearbook)
Athletic Department (University of Michigan) records, Bentley Historical Library
Athletic Department (University of Michigan) Individual Files - Willis Ward, Bentley Historical Library
Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics (University of Michigan) records, Bentley Historical Library
Ralph W. Aigler Papers, Bentley Historical Library
- Willis Ward Alumni File, Bentley Historical Library
- Willis Ward Papers, Detroit Public Library

Newspapers and Periodicals

- Georgia Tech Alumnus Magazine
Michiganensian Yearbook
Michigan Alumnus Magazine
The Michigan Daily Digital Archive
- Newspapers.com: Atlanta Constitution, Battle Creek Enquirer, Detroit Tribune Independent, Detroit Free PressLansing State Journal
- Online newspapers: The Livingston Post, Detroit News
- Proquest Historical Newspapers:  African American newspapers - Amsterdam NewsAtlanta Daily World, Baltimore African American, Chicago Defender, Michigan Chronicle, Philadelphia Tribune, Pittsburgh Courier
- University of Michigan Proceedings of the Board of Regents

Theses and Dissertations

- Behee, John Richard. Fielding H. Yost's Legacy to the University of Michigan [dissertation, University of Michigan]. 1970. 
- Deskins, Donald R. "Negro Settlement in Ann Arbor" [master's thesis, University of Michigan]. 1962.
- Steward, Tyran Kai. "In the Shadow of Jim Crow: The Benching and Betrayal of Willis Ward" [dissertation, Ohio State University]. 2013. 
- Steward, Tyran Kai. "Jim Crow in the Big House: The Benching of Willis Ward and the Rise of Segregation in the North" [master's thesis, Eastern Michigan University]. 2009. 

Published Works

Detroit, The Black Community and Henry Ford

- Bates, Beth Tompkins. The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.
- Harmon, Julia Robinson. "The Leadership of Reverend Robert L. Bradby and the Black Community in East Industrial Detroit." In The Black Urban Community: From Dusk Till Dawn, ed. Gayle T. Tate and Lewis Randolph, 204–224. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
- Lewis, David L. The Public Image of Henry Ford: An American Folk Hero and His Company. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1976.
- Lewis, David L. "Working Side by Side." Michigan History 7, no. 1 (1993): 24–30.
- Maloney, Thomas N., and Warren C. Whatley. "Making the Effort: The Contours of Racial Discrimination in Detroit's Labor Markets, 1920–1940." Journal of Economic History 55, no. 3 (September 1995): 465–493.
- Martin, Elizabeth Ann. Detroit and the Great Migration, 1916–1929. Ann Arbor, MI: Bentley Historical Library, 1993.
- Meier, August, and Elliott Rudwick. Black Detroit and the Rise of the UAW [foreword by Joe W. Trotter]. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007.
- Thomas, Richard W. Life for Us Is What We Make of It: Building Black Community in Detroit, 1915–1945. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Willis Ward and Georgia Tech

- Bacon, John U. "A sad step backward in Michigan football history." Michigan Radio, February 24, 2012.
- Bacon, John U. "Fielding Yost: The Tradition Maker." In A Legacy of Champions: The Story of the Men Who Built University of Michigan Football, ed. Francis J. Fitzgerald, 14-73. Huntington Woods, MI: CTC Sports, 1996.
- Bacon, John U. “The Other Side of Fielding Yost.” Ann Arbor Chronicle, March 16, 2012.
- Bacon, John U. "When Ward, Ford Played Ball for UM." Ann Arbor Chronicle, Feburary 24, 2012.
- Behee, John Richard. Fielding Yost's Legacy to the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, MI: Ulrich’s Books, 1971.
- Behee, John Richard. Hail to the Victors! Black Athletes at the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, MI: Ulrich's Books, 1973.
- Dooley, Greg. "The Life and Career of Fielding H. Yost." M Victors, February 18, 2020.
- Krawcke, Nicole. "Brighton 8-Year-Old Helps Honor Former UM Athlete Benched Because He Was Black." Patch, October 18, 2012.
- Steward, Tyran Kai. "At the University but not of the University: The Benching of Willis Ward and the Rise of Northern Racial Liberalism." American Studies, 55:33 (2016), 35-70.

Jim Crow and the "Gentlemen's Agreement

- Baker, S. Zebulon. "'This Affair is About Something Bigger Than John Bright': Iowans Confront the Jim Crow South, 1946–1951." The Annals of Iowa 72, no. 2 (Spring, 2013): 122–160.
- Martin, Charles H. Benching Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall of the Color Line in Southern College Sports, 1890–1980. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010. 
- Martin, Charles H. "The Color Line in Midwestern College Sports, 1890–1960." Indiana Magazine of History 98, no. 2 (June 2002): 95-112. 
- Martin, Charles H. "Racial Change and 'Big-Time' College Football in Georgia: The Age of Segregation, 1892–1957." Georgia Historical Quarterly 80, no. 3 (Fall, 1996): 532–562. 
- Miller, Patrick. "Slouching Toward a New Expediency: College Football and the Color Line During the Depression Decade." American Studies 40, no. 3 (Fall, 1999): 5–30. 
- Reed, Rachel, and Greg Kinney. "Celebrating George Jewett." Snapshots of U-M History. Ann Arbor, MI: Bentley Historical Library, 2014.
- Schweider, Dorothy. "The Life and Legend of Jack Trice." Annals of Iowa 69, no. 4 (Fall, 2010): 379–417.
- Shultz, Jaime. "The Legend of Jack Trice and the Campaign for Jack Trice Stadium." Journal of Social History  41, no. 4 (Summer, 2008): 997–1029.  
- Spivey, Donald. "'End Jim Crow in Sports': The Protest at New York University, 1940–1941." Journal of Sport History [special issue: The Black Athlete in American Sport] 15, no. 3, (Winter, 1988): 282–303.
- Wernle, Robert F. "The Team That Tackled Jim Crow." Wabash Magazine (Fall, 1998).

Campus and Community

- Ann Arbor District Library. A Map of Ann Arbor African American Historical Sites.
- Davis, Henry Vance. "From Coloreds to African-Americans: A History of the Struggle for Equity at the University of Michigan and an Agenda for the Pluralistic Multicultural University of the Twenty-first Century." In Sankofa: The University Since BAM—Twenty Years of Progress? [conference report], ed. Henry Vance Davis. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Office of Minority Affairs, March 29–31, 1990, 30–51).
- Marwil, Jonathan. A History of Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991.
- McClellan, Keith. A History of Track and Field in the Twentieth Century from a Michigan Perspective. Ypsilanti: Eastern Michigan University, 2001.
- Peckham, Howard H.  The Making of the University of Michigan, 1837-1967.  Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1967.
- Smith, Richard. The Origins of Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.: Timeline at The University of Michigan, 2021
- Tobin, James. "Lonely as Hell." Heritage Project. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2019.)
- Van de Water, Peter E. Alexander Grant Ruthven of Michigan: Biography of a University President. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977).
- Williams, Brian.  "An Unwritten Law." Collections, Spring 2017. 

Copyright Information

The Bentley Historical Library has made the content in this exhibit available for educational and research purposes. Some material may be protected by copyright law.  It is the responsibility of anyone interested in reproducing, broadcasting or publishing content from the Bentley Historical Library collections to determine copyright holders and secure permissions accordingly. If you have questions or concerns regarding the inclusion of material in this exhibit, please contact our reference department at bentley.ref@umich.edu.