CALUMET CITY | Freshman students from Thornton Fractional North High School received a lesson in the history of race relations via an unlikely source Thursday morning: the movie theater.
The students, along with some teachers and Principal Dwayne Evans, took a field trip to Lansing Cinema 8 for a screening of the movie "42," which tells the story of baseball player Jackie Robinson, who broke the race barrier in Major League Baseball when he was chosen to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
The students called the film honest in its depiction of trials Robinson faced as the first African-American in the majors. In one scene, actor Robert Turyk depicts Philadelphia Phillies manager Ben Chapman using an endless stream of racial slurs to try to distract Robinson's game.
"That's just the way things were then," said student Marcus Hicks, adding that he has heard similar stories of such behavior toward African-American people during his studies. "I've heard all of this in school."
Returning to school following the movie, students said they enjoyed the film and were pleased to have a chance to see it.
"It was about what I expected," said Miyah Watson. "No, it didn't offend me. It just seemed like a story about back in the day."
Math teacher Robert Paradise, who was among faculty who accompanied the students, said the film experience wasn't just time away from school. There will be academic work tied to the experience.
Teachers have the opportunity to decide how the film's information and details can be worked into their classrooms, although Paradise said English classes will be asking students to write essays telling their thoughts about the film.
The best of those essays will then be sent to the Jackie Robinson Foundation in New York.
For student Roy Jordan, there was little about the film's story that surprised him, since he had heard similar stories of racial strife from his older family members.
But he was surprised by one of the film's running gags — the idea that Pittsburgh as a city and the Pirates as a ball club were considered a particularly unattractive place to play.
"I didn't know Pittsburgh was that bad," he said.