The Hollywood Version:
The opening voiceover in Remember the Titans tells us (in a line they totally stole from James Van der Beek) that in Virginia, football is life. And in Alexandria in 1971, football and real life issues came crashing together when two high schools merged to form TC Williams, the first integrated school in the city.
At first there was racial tension between the white players and the black players, particularly when a black coach who liked to stomp around and scowl a lot (naturally, because he's played by Denzel Washington) was given the head coaching job while the white coach was demoted to a subservient role.
Sometimes racial tension looks like two dudes ready to kiss each other.
But thanks to competitive spirit, a rockin' 70s soundtrack and the good-natured obesity of Ethan Suplee, the team found racial harmony just in time to overcome every Southern stereotype in the book on its way to a dramatic run to the Virginia State Championship.
While TC Williams was in fact the product of several schools in Alexandria merging together to form one big behemoth of a high school, it didn't exactly play out the way it's portrayed in the movie. The key difference being the tiny little fact that TC Williams was formed and integrated six years before the movie takes place.
And though there was racial tension originally, by the time the championship season rolled around it had mostly subsided. No one protested on the first day of school, and while there were heated exchanges in practice, according to the actual players and coaches it was based purely on position battles, and not race.
The whole dramatic run in the middle of the night leading to Denzel's even more dramatic speech about Gettysburg? Yep, totally fabricated.
Despite what Denzel tried to tell us in a big pregame speech in the movie, TC Williams wasn't the only school that had been dealing with some of the racial issues of the day. The Titans weren't, as he declares, the only integrated team in their league. In real life, every single team in TC Williams' league was integrated by the 1971 season.
And what about the big climactic game, where the Titans have to overcome the better team and pull out a ridiculous 80 yard reverse for a touchdown to win? That really happened, right? Actually, they won in a rout, trouncing their opponent 27-0.
In fact, no one put up much of a fight all year for the Titans, who cruised to the championship and finished the year ranked number two nationally. Apparently, watching a team hand out an ass stomping just isn't "cinematic" enough for Disney. Obviously they hadn't seen the sports genre's Citizen Kane, a little film called Rocky III.