The true story of a friendship...
1970, Gallatin, Tennessee
Someone might die tonight. The air outside the all-white Gallatin High School gym vibrates with tension. It’s the night of Bill and Eddie’s big basketball game in tiny Gallatin, Tennessee, a long-lingering holdout of southern segregation now on the verge of forced integration. The town is painfully divided as it faces the arduous task of uniting as one community.
Gallatin High is playing tonight against Gallatin’s all-black Union High School. Uncertainty, fear, and anger simmer beneath the crowd’s smiling faces as they file into the gym. In a few months, Union High will be permanently shuttered, its black students shifted to the halls of Gallatin High, where they’ll walk side by side with the white students. Tonight, though, as the all-white and all-black basketball teams meet in the regional championship for the first time in history, the white crowd walks in through the front doors, but the blacks still walk in through the back.
Union, based on a true story from the 1960s, tells the tale of how the innocence of a childhood friendship can unite and mend the racial divide. Eddie is white and Bill is black. As children, they serendipitously meet on a makeshift neighborhood basketball court without fear of each other and strike up an unlikely friendship through their shared passion for the game. They sustain their friendship through mutual respect and the love they have for each other in spite of the surrounding racial turmoil infusing their childhoods. Eddie and Bill show how friendship, bravery, love and honor change their community forever.
As a symbol of the town’s racial tension, the basketball game is a tinderbox poised to explode into violence no matter what the outcome. Eddie and Bill are the respective stars of their two teams, and they fight hard against each other for the victory, their longstanding friendship unknown to the crowd. The game is close, and in the end, Eddie’s Gallatin High team wins. Anger begins to flare in the crowd. Police stand by.
Crushed by the loss, Bill is in tears as he’s called back onto center court to be recognized for the all-tournament team. Eddie, already standing at center court, sees Bill’s tears and embraces Bill in sympathy and friendship in front of the restive crowd. Dead quiet falls. The boys continue to hug. Applause slowly breaks out until the entire gym, black and white, join in the ovation.
Union is a story that can only be told now in this time to show all of us what really matters in the challenge of human nature to transcend the past’s inequities. Union is being told to show us all that we can overcome our differences. Through the chronicling of this life long relationship between Eddie and Bill and the game of basketball, our lesson can be learned. Union is shared as a story of hope in a world that still needs to mend and grow.