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The state of Michigan has declared Oct. 20 as Willis Ward Day, honoring the 1930s University of Michigan player who was benched because he was black.
The state of Michigan has officially named Oct. 20 as Willis Ward Day, according to Shawn D. Lewis of The Detroit News.
State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker ultimately led state legislature to come to the decision, but the idea to honor Ward started with a Brighton, Mich., third-grader.
Genna Urbain first came across Ward's story in the film "Black And Blue," which highlights Michigan's benching of the African-American athlete for a game against Georgia Tech on Oct. 20, 1934. After that, the eight-year-old decided she wanted to bring the injustice to light.
"A lot of people like to listen to little kids, and you should speak up and make a difference."
As part of her initial attempt to honor Ward, Genna made a speech to the University of Michigan's board of regents on March 15. However, after being informed of a decision in what she felt was a timely manner, Genna and her family traveled to Lansing, Mich., on June 5 to meet with legislators and staff, including Schuitmaker.
The Wolverines have their own plans to honor Ward on Oct. 20, when they host in-state rival Michigan State.