Using societal, cultural, and economic issues as contextual frameworks, Raleigh-based artist André Leon Gray presents powerful narratives within his works to raise awareness and elicit conversations. In Black Magic (It’s Fantastic), he commemorates a storied local event—the first racially-integrated college basketball game in the South.
Take a close look at the materials in this work of art: acrylic rhinestones, a basketball, synthetic braided hair, a street sweeper brush, shoe laces, headband, miniature clay pots, wood, and cowry shells on a wooden ironing board.
Black Magic is part of a series concerning basketball and black athletes. This work is especially poignant when taken in geographic context. North Carolina has played a pivotal role in the desegregation of professional sports. In 1944, an all-white basketball team from Duke University and an all-black team from North Carolina Central University (NCCU) met in secret to play one another in the first racially integrated college basketball game in the American South. All accounts of the game had to be kept secret from the public and the media, as it violated the state’s strict segregation laws. The “Secret Game” became a catalyst for the integration of professional sports or the “Black Magic” era, as it is now known, as the students from NCCU beat Duke by 119-34. By using the phrase in his title, Gray references this historic event.
This rare moment of racial collaboration and mutual respect, to many, felt magical: a combination of factors that collided together to produce a truly memorable moment in time. Black Magic, indeed.
Learn more about the historic game that inspired this work here.
Purchased with funds from the Friends of African and African American Art