Nearly seven years ago in 2016, Lou Montgomery: A Legacy Restored premiered at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass.
The film, produced by Boston College professors Susan Michalczyk and John Michalczyk, unpacks the legacy of Lou Montgomery, BC’s first Black student-athlete. It follows Montgomery from his childhood in his hometown of Brockton, Mass. to his time playing for BC football.
Lou Montgomery: His Story is Our Story is a continuation of Montgomery’s story and exploration of his impact on the school’s conversations surrounding race, past and present, will premiere at the 25th Annual Arts Festival on Thursday, April 27 at 5:30 p.m. in Devlin 026.
So what’s changed since 2016?
For Susan Michalczyk, a literature and film professor in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, the decision to expand the story into a second film began when she was asked to write a chapter on Montgomery for a book about Black athletes in Boston.
“In doing the research for writing the chapter, I kept going back to Brockton and looking at research,” she said, “I was then able to connect with another BC alum, a sociologist and professor at the historical society of Brockton, and he had all this information that we never had in the first documentary.”
Michalczyk said once she learned more about Montgomery’s story, the decision to make a second film made sense.
“We needed, really, to remind people of Lou’s story, and to push for more recognition,” Michalczyk said. “And this time around, I was able to get some of the athletic directors on board, some of the current football players, and then a slew of former football players to interview and then to narrate the film.”
Two of the current football players Michalczyk interviewed for the film were Taji Johnson, LSEHD ’23, and Nick Thomas, CSOM ’25.
Michalczyk said she has worked with students on film projects in the past, using student compositions to score her films or interviewing them to get a unique perspective. Thomas said he became involved with Lou Montgomery: His Story is Our Story after taking a class with Michalczyk last spring and having conversations with her about his experiences as a Black man at BC.
“When this was coming out, she reached out to me right away and said, ‘I would love for you to be in this, and to talk for yourself, and for everybody to see where you’re coming from,’” Thomas said. “Once she told me that, I needed to do it, it felt like.”
Johnson’s experience was similar.
“I felt like it was the right thing to do, because it’s me being a voice for the people that don’t really get to be heard that way, the way that they should be,” he said.
According to Michalczyk, a voice is exactly what this film aims to provide, for both Lou Montgomery and for anyone confronting prejudice in any community, including BC. Michalczyk’s research does not just focus on Montgomery and his experience with racism at BC, but present-day issues that go beyond one program or one school.
In 1940, BC made it to the Sugar Bowl, but Montgomery was told to stay behind because he was one of the only Black players.
“He stayed here,” Michalczyk said. “And they went off to play the game. And that’s the reason I’m doing it … the research shows he spent his entire life giving of himself.”
Michalczyk said the film was produced to spark the kind of difficult conversations often encouraged at BC, and to give students an example of a student who was a leader despite adversity and profound discrimination.
“Film is one of those media that allows for uncomfortable conversations to happen,” Michalczyk said. “You read about in the book, it’s hard, but if you’ve got the music playing, seeing the pictures, it allows for awkward discussions, uncomfortable conversation to happen. We’re trying to show the kids that college kids talk about racism, and BC football players are talking about racism. I think it’s time.”
The film’s interviews with historians, athletic leaders, and alumni are supplemented by interviews with current BC athletes like Johnson and Thomas. Both expressed their hopes for the film’s impact at BC regarding race and why they were compelled to contribute.
“When you talk about something that you really care about it just comes off naturally, because it’s something that you lived and experienced personally,” Johnson said. “It felt necessary, and it felt comfortable to me.”
The film demonstrates how these conversations may feel uncomfortable but are necessary if communities want to progress toward real equality and respect. Honoring Montgomery’s legacy at BC is one way that movement can begin.
The screening will include a panel discussion following the film.
Update (5/1/2023, 4:54 p.m.): This article previously stated that Michalczyk is professor in the Woods College of Advancing Studies. It has been updated to state that she is a professor in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences.