NU Archives and Special Collections featured in Bill Russell: Legend

Black and white image of Bill Russell wearing a white Celtics uniform holds the ball while leaping with spread legs.
Action shot of Bill Russell playing for the Boston Celtics June 23, 1966 courtesy of the Boston Globe Library Collection.

For anyone who has browsed the Boston Globe Library Collection’s sports photographs in the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, some photos in the Netflix docuseries Bill Russell: Legend might look familiar. The docuseries was released on Netflix February 8 and features many photographs from our Boston Globe Library Collection and also draws upon the Archives’ records of Bill Russell’s social justice history.

Black and white image of Bill Russell wearing a dark jacket and tie and sitting in front of a machine.
Portrait of Bill Russell seated on April 17, 1966 taken by Gilbert E. Friedberg, Boston Globe.

The Netflix docuseries explored many facets of Russell’s life beyond his sports career, which mirrors the records of Bill Russell held in our collection. Along with photographs of Russell coaching and playing basketball, the Boston Globe Library Collection has photos of Russell speaking at school graduations, at press conferences at the Boston NAACP headquarters, at Roxbury neighborhood meetings, and at his restaurant Slade’s Bar and Grill. 

Russell is represented in our Special Collections as a frequent presence at Civil Rights demonstrations and Freedom Stay-Outs protesting the racial imbalance in the Boston Public Schools. In an interview, former president of the Boston NAACP branch Kenneth Guscott recalled seeing Russell: 

“I remember when we were marching down on one of the marches, there was more than one march, that the star from the Celtics, Bill Russell, he was very active in the civil right movement. When we were marching, Bill was there and he was right in the front line with us, right across. As they marched down Columbus Avenue, this lady came rushing up and said, wait for me, wait for me and she jumped in the line beside Bill Russell. It was his wife. She jumped in that line and started marching with us.”

Black and white image of Bill Russell sitting at a table and speaking into several microphones. There are two other men sitting on either side of him. On a window behind him are the letters NAACP. The photo is resting on top of a folder with a label "Russell, Bill (Basketball) Groups"
Photo of Bill Russell speaking at NAACP Headquarters July 8, 1964 seated next to Kenneth Guscott (left) and Marvin Gilmore (right), taken by Hal Sweeney, Boston Globe.

In a speech by Russell for the Freedom School graduation ceremonies in 1966, he closed by saying asking Roxbury students: 

“Is there anyone of you young people here tonight who wants to be President of the United States? Is there anyone who wants to be Secretary of the United States? Would you like to be Ambassador to the United Nations? Why not? 

Remember, you can do anything you want to do. If you want to do it badly enough.” 

Black and white image of Bill Russell, wearing a suite and speaking to a crowd of young Black teenagers. Russell is standing on the left and facing the crowd on the right. He is so tall that he has to stoop a little to reach the microphones.
Photo of Bill Russell speaking at PT Campbell Junior High Freedom Graduation, June 22, 1966, taken by Frank O’Brien, Boston Globe.

Russell’s legacy is preserved  in many archives and special special collections across the country, and many of those archives’ records were gathered to tell the story of Bill Russell’s life in Bill Russell: Legend. Learn more about the Bill Russell: Legend docuseries available through Netflix here.

To learn more about the collection that supplied many images of Bill Russell’s career, visit our Boston Globe Library Collection portal. To learn more about the Freedom Schools demonstrations Russell was a part of visit the Boston School Desegregation Project portal. 

You can listen to the full interview with Kenneth Guscott, taken as a part of the Lower Roxbury Black History Project, here

Don’t play with this fire; it’s addictive

So I am almost done reading The Girl Who Played with Fire. Good book. I must say I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but this second novel gets to the heart of the action in the perfect amount of time. Dragon Tattoo had about 100 pages in the beginning that in my opinion could seriously have been reduced or cut out. I am also currently watching the Dragon Tattoo on Netflix. The movie is from 2009 and subtitled since it is a Swedish film. What I was surprised to discover as well was that The Girl Who Played with Fire is currently in theaters! When I was checking out times for the new movie, Inception, I was taken aback! I had no idea that the books had reached such a wide audience that Swedish films were being played in the movie theaters here in the US. I am definitely not going to see this movie until I finish the second book… but it’s a good thing I only have about 100 pages left. I must say something about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo movie. I was told it was good and I would really like it, but it jumps into the action almost too fast. The slow start that the book had is completely negated by the quick jump that the movie takes. I also think that Lisbeth Salander’s character is seen in a very different light in the movie. In the book, Larsson is able to give context and Lisbeth’s thoughts behind her actions. In the movie she simply comes across as a tattooed, pierced, black-clothes-wearing feminist vigilante. I don’t think the viewers really get an idea of her character. Maybe in the Fire movie you see more of her personality, as the book focuses mostly on her. Overall I am loving the second novel and can’t wait to finish it. The movies… definitely for people who have read the book. Now I’m just waiting for an English version to come out so I don’t have to focus on subtitles!! All three of Larsson’s novels can be found in Snell library… but good luck taking them out… you’ll have to get in line!