The origin story of the acclaimed Black Progress Game is the story of creativity, competition, genius, black excellence, family, and hope that the way to a better future together is through learning from the past.
In 1982, Memphian Dr. Larry Moore (professor, attorney, and community advocate) partnered with Heritage Games to create the game Black Progress. Now in 2020, he is partnering with his son, George Moore, to release limited editions of the Black Progress Game so that a new generation can enjoy it. I sat down with Dr. Moore and George to talk about the creation of the game and the impact it has made in the lives of so many.
Learn more about the origins of the Black Progress Game, and buy the game here. It makes the perfect Christmas gift for friends and loved ones.
Choose901: What was your goal for the Black Progress Game?
Dr. Moore: Our goal was to tell the true uplifting history of Black America; American history is Black history. As early as the 17th century, Black Americans were owning and building theaters and when you run that into the 19th century, before you ever had Harlem art district prominence, you had the creativity and art of Beale Street that changed the world forever.
Black bankers, lawyers, business owners, craftsmen, educators, politicians, and more have thrived in and built America despite structural opposition and discrimination, and their stories of progress and excellence so rarely are told. These stories of Black Progress must be told, remembered, and learned from for us to realize the true excellence of America. -Dr. Moore
Choose901: The Black Progress Game is not only riveting and fun, but it also has an incredible story behind it. Can you tell us about how the game came to be?
Dr. Moore: I’ve been a writer throughout my life but the game idea actually came while I practiced as an attorney. I had a client who had developed an Elvis Presley game that had become popular but the problem was that it was getting exploited even though he had received licensure from the Presley estate. So we went to Federal Court to protect the game and in the process, I realized how incredible a teaching tool games can be because people remember what they learn from play so well.
I supplied all of the history content and two of my friends designed the board and art. The President of a major game company flew to Memphis and committed to publishing the game with many major distributors selling the game. In the midst of that Pac-Man was released, and the video gaming market took over in the early 1980’s. Even through the growing popularity of video games, Black Progress still sold 5,000 copies but never reached the distribution level we had hoped. Despite the industry changes, I still kept several copies of the game and had them around the house as our children grew up and have been excited to see George and the rest of our family take an interest in the game. It’s ironic, now, that board games are almost as popular again as video games.
George: It’s funny because when I was a kid I remember seeing all the games and it never fully hits you that “your dad created a game!” Still, I remember playing it a few times and thought it was really cool. But as I got older I’ve come to realize that my dad’s Black Progress Game fits in perfectly with the Renaissance that is happening in our Country. Black Americans and minorities are leading the way for progress and excellence in law, medicine, innovation, and politics. The seeds of being around my parents and other brilliant African American leaders came together over the last year and encouraged me to get the game back out into the world so that others can experience the positive impact of this game. And shout out to my cousin, Janee Adams, a professor at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who had the initial idea to re-release this amazing game.
Choose901: What is your hope for individuals and families that encounter the game?
Dr. Moore: As we consider making updates to the game, we’ve been excited about hearing all the ways teachers and community leaders have utilized our game in various settings. Also, we want to continue getting the word out about the game and we’ve purposefully priced it to where everyone has the opportunity to enjoy this product.
George: There is a burning desire to hear black voices and uplift our legacy. Serving in ministry, I have conversations all the time about recognizing the contributions of black faith leaders that paved the way for us. Men like Martin Luther King Jr. (who was killed in Memphis), Charles Mason (buried here in Memphis), John Perkins, etc. Even when we look at the early history of the Christian faith, men and women of color helped lay the foundation of what we believe: Tertullian, Athanasius, and Augustine are great examples of this. Even African women: Perpetua and Felicitas, were martyred and their faithfulness has shined throughout the centuries. I believe the same is true for this game.
We want our families and communities to learn about the legacy and triumph of blacks in this country. Their accomplishments speak to us now and we want Black Progress to touch this generation and the next generation.
Choose901: How have you seen Memphians contribute to the story of Black Progress?
Dr. Moore: I just re-released a historical novel, Images of Beale Street, that discusses this very thing alongside the game. From the first Black American millionaire, Robert Church, to more Black homeowners than any other city in the country, to many of the greatest Black leaders throughout the U.S. getting their start in Memphis, we in Memphis have been at the forefront of Black Progress.
George: Memphis has one of the largest African-American populations in our country and we have a new generation of Black leaders in our city that are taking the mantle as great parents, civic leaders, healthcare workers, educators and more to advance the excellence that has come before us. Drawing on the power of the past to help make our future brighter. We want to see Memphis celebrated and uplifted. An empowered Memphis is better for all of us, and for the entire world.