The 1944 Eagles basketball team. Image from NC Central University Athletics.

Secret Basketball Game of 1944

On March 12, 1944, an all-white team from Duke University’s medical school faced off against an all-black team from what is now North Carolina Central University, the Eagles, in a secret, interracial basketball game.

At the time, strict segregation laws criminalized racial interaction and fostered a dangerous environment for those who violated them, prompting the participants to take extreme caution in planning and attending the event. Coaches kept school administrators in the dark and barred the doors to the Eagles’ gym.

The two teams played cautiously at first, worried that a foul might morph into a fight. But, by the second half, the jitters subsided, and the teams focused on just playing the game. When the clock ran down, the Eagles, who had lost only one game that season, emerged victorious. The final score was 88-44.

The two teams then mixed their squads and played a second game. One Duke player told his family “we sure had fun and I especially had a good time, for most of the fellows playing with me were Southerners.  . . .  And when the evening was over, most of them had changed their views quite a lot.”

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Image from NC Central University Athletics. 

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