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A Touch of Glory: Production honors 1955 Crispus Attucks High School team that made history

They were the first all-Black team to win a state championship in integrated sports.
1955 Crispus Attucks High School basketball team celebrating
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Posted at 3:09 PM, Jan 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-19 11:38:04-05

INDIANAPOLIS – A local community partnership is working to shine a stage light on the amazing, history-making story of the 1955 all-Black Crispus Attucks High School basketball team, bringing it to life in theater for the first time.

GANGGANG is teaming up with Deborah Asante & Artists to create “A Touch of Glory,” which will honor the 1955 Tigers, the first all-Black team in the nation to win a state championship in an integrated sport.

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In 1955 the Crispus Attucks Tigers defeated Gary Roosevelt 97-74, becoming the first Indianapolis team to win the Indiana High School Athletic Association basketball tournament. Front row left to right: Stanford Patton, Sam Milton, Bill Brown, Bill Scott, Johnny Mack Brown. Back Row: Coach Ray Crowe, Willie Merriweather, John Gipson, Oscar Robertson, Sheddrick Mitchell, Willie Burnley.

The production marks 6 years of work for playwright Laura Town, who used that time to extensively research and interview people who lived it: Including key figures such as the Crowe family, Bill Hampton, John Gipson, Willie Merriweather, and Hallie Bryant.

“I was surprised by how many obstacles the team and the individual players had to overcome in their lives and how they handled everything with dignity and grace and their resilience and even how they went on further in life,” Town told WRTV. “You know, after high school, after professional basketball or after college for some, how they handled their lives, (their) personal lives, and professional lives beyond basketball: With such courage and grace and kindness to others. They're just amazing men.”

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Funded by the Lilly Foundation, “A Touch of Glory” will premiere with a free community preview on February 9-11. Its organizers say the play is best suited for ages 13 and older. The production returns for purchased tickets during NBA All-Star Weekend February 16-18. All performances will fittingly take place at Crispus Attucks High School.

“It's a story about dreaming and working hard, and then being disappointed. But yet, getting up and still being a game changer. And in that it also highlights Crispus Attucks, as a high school,” Deborah Asante said.

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Asante is the founder of Asante Art Institute of Indianapolis, which started 30 years ago in Indianapolis as the Asante Children’s Theatre. Her son, Terrance Asante-Doyle, is producer for "A Touch of Glory." Doyle says her son has spent his life with theater alongside him like a sibling: This project is like family to them.

Doyle and everyone working on the production believe it’s important for Hoosiers to learn their history. And what better place to do it, than at Crispus Attucks itself?

“There's something special that happened here in Indianapolis with that school,” Asante said. “And the beginnings of that school were not a positive thing… Yet this community made it so impactful to not only sports, but scientists and lawyers – all kinds of people have come out of that school. So we are having the play at Crispus Attucks where it happened: So everybody can not only not only know the story, but sit in the story.”

You can get tickets to the production here.

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