It was revealed today that the incredible and inspiring true story of Charles “Charlie” Wiggins, the greatest African American race car driver of the 1920s and 1930s, is being developed into a feature film by Ed Welburn and Madisun Leigh via their Welburn Media Productions banner.
The film, titled “Eraced”, has attracted first-of-its-kind brand collaboration during development from blue chip partners including INDYCAR and Firestone. INDYCAR has pledged support for physical production, marketing and promotional opportunities during production, and additional marketing resources, including media, at time of release. Firestone will be a production partner for the film.
Set in the roaring 20s and depression era 30s against the colorful backdrop of bootleggers, and the birth of jazz, “Eraced” chronicles the triumphs and struggles of the legendary Charlie “Speed King” Wiggins, widely regarded as the greatest racecar driver of his generation.
Charlie was no stranger to the inequities of segregation and Jim Crow Indiana. More than once Charlie defended himself, his family, and his livelihood from the terrors of the Ku Klux Klan and the permeation of oppressive systemic racism in America. After being barred repeatedly from whites-only racing events, Charlie became a leading light of the parallel Colored Speedway Association and won the prestigious annual Gold and Glory Sweepstakes four times between 1926 and 1935. Long before baseball’s Negro Leagues produced Jackie Robinson, the Gold and Glory Sweepstakes had its champion…
For those accomplishments and more, Charlie Wiggins will be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame on Thursday July 22, 2021 in Detroit.
Producing the film are Grant Cramer (“Lone Survivor,” “November Man”), Madisun Leigh (“Driven,” “iTrans”) and Ed Welburn. WWT Founder/Chairman David Steward and Polarity CEO David Steward II (Academy Award® winning “Hair Love”), have partnered as financiers and will serve as executive producers alongside Marsha Malone and Randy Greenberg (“The Meg,” “Cowboys & Aliens”), who sourced, negotiated and will manage the brand partnerships.
Ed Welburn was General Motors Vice President of Global Design, and until his retirement in 2016, was the highest-ranking African American in the automobile industry. Welburn spearheaded development of the feature film after watching Gould’s documentary. Having grown up in and around his father’s auto shop and spending his entire life devoted to automobile design and auto racing, Welburn was both mesmerized by Charlie’s story and shocked that he had never heard of him or the African American racing car circuit known as the Gold & Glory Sweepstakes.
“Watching the documentary about Charlie, I was excited and at the same time deeply saddened that such an amazing piece of African American history, of American history, of car history, could be completely unknown to me, my enthusiast friends, and most auto racing experts,” said Welburn. “I decided that I had to bring Charlie’s story to life.” “It’s yet another missing piece of the puzzle that is the contribution of African American ingenuity and genius to our country’s rich history,” said Leigh. “Charlie was a humble yet daring man who, despite the stifling impediment of Jim Crow laws and unimaginable personal tragedy, rose again and again to meet those challenges and obstacles.”
“When approached to participate in this independently produced feature film, INDYCAR did not hesitate, as this is an important story that needs to be told,” said Jimmie McMillian, Chief Diversity Officer and Senior Corporate Counsel of Penske Entertainment which is comprised of Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), INDYCAR and IMS Productions. “Charlie was a great racecar driver and inspirational person whose racing career was sadly impacted by the bigotry and prejudice of the world around him. We’re looking forward to shedding light on Charlie and Roberta’s extraordinary achievements and take pride in ensuring that this true tale of remarkable racing achievements comes to life.”
“Our Firestone brand’s roots in racing date back more than a century, and we’re proud to provide our experience and support to ensure one of the sport’s most inspiring stories is shared in an authentic way,” said Susie Long, Vice President, Talent, Diversity and Culture, Bridgestone Americas. “As Bridgestone continues to seek partnerships that promote diversity and create awareness for change in our communities, the chance to help introduce new audiences to Charlie Wiggins’ incredible journey of adversity and triumph seems like a perfect fit.”
Executive Producer and financier David Steward said: “The life Charlie Wiggins lived was remarkable on so many levels. Through a cinematic lens, his story can be understood and appreciated by audiences who may be learning of him for the first time. This is a seminal film project and the Steward family is honored to be involved.”
Producers are planning a spring 2022 production start date.
Marsha Malone brokered the partnership between David Steward II’s media company Polarity and Welburn Media Productions.