‘Woodlawn’ portrays racial tensions desegregation, uplifts with religious message

by: NICK ALVARADO/Editorial Assistant

Attending Woodlawn High School in the 1970s was tough with desegregation and violence occurring across Alabama.

The film “Woodlawn” begins with an introductory prologue, with well-known and legendary coach, Bear Bryant (played by Jon Voight), inviting the University of Southern California football team to come to Alabama to play. Alabama is still segregated during this time.

Three years later at Woodlawn High school in Birmingham, Ala., the school and town would be filled with hate and racism, as blacks the same school as whites. Tensions build between the two races and violence occurs across the town. The football team consisted of only 40 players, including both whites and blacks consisted of the team. The violence transfers to the football team, and Coach Tandy Gerelds (Nic Bishop) tries to help stop the violence occurring on the football team.

In the first game of the season, it was a struggle to compete against their rival, Banks High School, since the desegregation across the city affected the crowd at the game.

Coach Gerelds then meets a religious motivational speaker, Hank (Sean Astin), and wants him to speak to his team. After listening to Hank, every member of the team accepts Jesus and converts to being a Christian.

This bond helps the team bond and interact better since they are all family now. However, the school board does not appreciate this move since challenging faith during school is considered to be against the law today.


Numerous scenes are included that involve racial tensions. One key scene includes the star player of Woodlawn, Tony Nathan (Caleb Castille), who turns down a hand shake from the Alabama governor, George Wallace, during a dinner.

Coach Bryant makes an appearance with a recruiting trip to Nathan’s house and tells him, “I’m not leaving until you decide to come to Alabama.” He eventually accepted the offer and went on to be a Miami Dolphin great.

The directors of this film, Jon and Andy Erwin, came out on national television a week before the release of the movie and explained all the events in the film were based on true events and how their hardships were in violence-torn Birmingham during desegregation times. They were even spotted at the South Carolina-Georgia game last month.

All in all, this movie delivers a powerful message and can bring you much closer to God, as it is a little combination of “God’s Not Dead” and “Remember the Titans.”

This movie is great to bring your spirits up when you’re feeling down, or to try to get inspiration. I have to rate this film 4 stars out of 5.


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