Theodore "Ted" Freeman was born and raised in Auburn, New York as the oldest of 11 children. In this interview, Ted discusses his family history and the unique circumstances which led to his family settling in upstate New York. His ancestors were men and women who were enslaved on a ship which was blown off course and ended up in England in 1772 where they were set free under the Mansfield Doctrine. His ancestors, Harry and Kate, adopted the surname Freeman so that no one would ever be able to try to enslave them again. They came to the United States as indentured servants for Colonel John L. Hardenburgh, a veteran of the Continental Army campaigns against the Iroqouis, who founded the town of Auburn, New York in 1793. Many generations of Freemans have lived in the town of Auburn since this time.
Ted went to St. Mary's Elementary School and then Mount Caramel High School where he was the first black student at each of those schools. His father owned a cleaning business and, after watching his father work extremely hard and helping him in the business, Ted knew that he wanted "to tax his mind, not his rear-end." Ted was a gifted student who exceled in academics and competitive debate. Along with these skills, Ted stood 6'2" and weighed 265 pounds at the age of 13 so athletics and academics were a natural coupling for him. Ted garnered the attention of many colleges and universities who offered athletic scholarships and he accepted an offer from Villanova University.
In certain ways college football provided a rude awakening for Ted as, despite his size, he "felt like a little guy" when he stepped onto the practice field for the first time. Just a 17 year-old freshman at the time, Ted had his teeth knocked out the very first day of practice during a drill where the offense was supposed to going at half-speed. In this interview, Ted discusses the coaching he received at Villanova and said that the hardest adjustment was to recognize that "not everyone was always on your side." Indeed, it seemed that many of the players found the coaches at the time to be very difficult to play for.
Ted was an active member of the Black Student League (BSL) and worked on many issues with his fellow students and the administration. As others have noted, black Villanova students were very concerned with the low numbers of black students, especially non-athletes and females. In this interview, Ted recalls the time that the BSL decided to take action on this issue by marching up to Tolentine Hall to take over the office of Father Donald Burt O.S.A., the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Ted demonstrated a great deal of courage as there were risks for scholarship athletes associated with this type of activity. In fact, Ted recalls receiving a message from one of his coaches through a fellow player that he should cease to be involved with these types of activities. Despite this risk, Ted indicated that black Villanovans - athletes and non-athletes - were united in the cause. Ted indicated he was impressed with way that Father Burt reacted, as the Dean recognized the moral legitimacy of the arguments and agreed to seek solutions to the issues raised. One result of the takeover was a promise by Father Breslin to diversify the curriculum and Ted offered an idea. Still possessing a keen interest in the study of rhetoric, Ted worked with Professor Richardson of the communication department to establish a class in black rhetoric which is still taught to this day.
After graduation, Ted worked in the social services field for many years in Philadelphia and New Jersey. In 1984, Ted was awarded the Alumni Medallion from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for his work in social services. Today, Ted is a minister in Orlando, Florida.
Freeman discusses the unique history of his ancestors who settled in and helped to establish Auburn, New York.
Freeman discusses why it was important to him to receive a quality education at the high school level. He also discusses his varied high school involvement which included winning awards at oratory competitions.
Freeman details the events which led him to select and attend Villanova University.
Freeman discusses his transition to collegiate football which was characterized by some difficult moments.
In this excerpt, Freeman discusses the challenges to having a social life on campus during his time as an undergraduate.
Freeman explains the issues which led to the founding of the Black Student League in the fall of 1968.
Freeman recalls some of the more intersting events and activities sponsored by the Black Student League, including plays written by Farrell Foreman and a visit by Muhammad Ali.
Freeman details the events of the meeting with the Dean of Arts and Sciences in February 1969 which led to some immediate positive outcomes.
In this section, Freeman stresses the important contributions to the black student movement of black Villanova students who were not scholarship athletes.
Freeman talks about the important role played in his life as a Villanova student and beyond by the older black students at Villanova.
In the following excerpts Freeman shares some of his experiences while playing football for Villanova. Although he has many fond memories of his time at Villanova there were some painful moments for Freeman as a member of the team.
Freeman discusses his profound respect for the members of the Augustinians who were at Villanova during his time.
In this segment Freeman vividly remembers an incident which changed his direction in life, leading him to a career in social work instead of international law.
In the first clip, Freeman discusses his overall impressions of his education off the football field at Villanova. In the second segment, Freeman talks about the how he views Villanova as open to change and calls on alumni to become the catalysts of the change they once were.