On December 1, 2002, Jim Brown and Spike Lee appeared in tandem at the Walker Arts Center. They came in tandem to promote Jim Brown: All American, a new documentary on the life of one of America’s most exceptional athletes and certainly the most exceptional football player. On December 1, 2002, Jim Brown and Spike Lee appeared in tandem at the Walker Arts Center. They came in tandem to promote Jim Brown: All American, a new documentary on the life of one of America’s most exceptional athletes and certainly the most exceptional football player. The quality of the film had the stamp of Lee’s special touch at film making: intelligent, candid, and provocative, revelatory with a touch of surprise which can only be found in the art of creative jazz. The content of the film dealt with critical aspects of Brown’s life about which little is generally known. No punches were pulled in the making of this work. All of the controversial questions are exposed. Both men offered brief salutary comments before the showing of the film. An expression of mutual admiration was shared, the most arresting of which, came from Brown, with his declaration that Spike Lee alone, possessed the sensibility and artistry to do film on his complex and stormy life. Having begun a movie career himself in Hollywood as the first Black matinee idol over 30 years ago, such a comment by Brown deserves a certain respect. Forsaking the usual platitudes, accolades and what have you, suffice to say, this film is well worth seeing. As a historic document on the Black athlete, it is far beyond anything yet made.
There was Captain Marvel, there was Captain America, and there is Superman. Now let it be said that there is Jim Brown. All of the former icons are characters of fiction, a figment of some clever writer or cartoonist’s imagination. But Jim Brown, is live and in the flesh—produced by the situation experiences of real life. As a he-man, Jim Brown transcends them all. The American power structure has the persistent habit for every generation of the 20th Century, of manufacturing these not so subtle symbols of “White supremacy.” What cannot be done in real life is often produced by fantasy, by the uneasy American imagination. The supremacy of an individual from the “inferior race” staggers the imagination. Such an image is out of order, which violates the laws of nature, if not God, as defined by the doctrine of “White supremacy.”… and John Wayne successfully wiped out 10,000 charging Indians … in the movies. We know Jim Brown primarily as this par excellent foot ball player who represents a radical departure in this “ metaphor for warfare” that we know as a football game. He later becomes an intriguingly successful movie star, the first Black romantic lead with White women. Lesser known, is his work for social justice, as an advocate for economic self-reliance. His Black Economic Union has been in existence, in some form, for over thirty years. He used his fame and stature to organize 40 Black Athletes during the 1960s for missions to the hungry in Mississippi. He was among those who defended Muhammud Ali’s moral right to resist the draft during the Vietnam War, all of this was done while still playing football for the original Cleveland Browns.
As for his athletic career, Brown is unparalleled as a football player. There was no one like him before, and there has been no one like since his retirement after the 1965 season at the tender age of 29. Some experts believe that he was yet to reach the peak of his powers as running back. It is not arguable that Brown was biggest, fastest, most durable and intelligent running back of all time. When Brown retired he held every rushing record, single season and career over 1,800 yards for a season; 232 yards for a game; over 12,000 for a career; the most carries; the least fumbles; never missed a game; missed three offensive plays; still holds the yards per carry record at 51. There is simply no way to overstate the magnitude of his achievements. As an all around athlete, he is the equal of the unconquerable Paul Robeson. It is doubtful that certain of his records will ever be really broken. With all due respect to Emmitt Smit