Monday, May 28, 2012

A Salute to Black Military Film Roles on This Memorial Day

Today we remember all of those who risked their lives and who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms.

Film has often done an excellent job of telling these various war stories and allowing us to get more of an intimate look at the men and women behind the uniforms.

For black veterans the medium of film has also served as a way of illuminating their stories to the mainstream public at large. Whether it was due to racism or simply just being forgotten about, film has allowed the stories of more (certainly not enough though) veterans of color the opportunity to not only have their stories told, but get the proper due for their heroism.

Here are some films featuring African Americans and their roles in the armed forces and protecting our freedom:

Louis Gosset Jr. "An Officer and A Gentleman" (1982)

Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman "Glory" (1989)

Samuel L. Jackson  "Assualt at West Point" (1994)

"The Tuskegee Airmen" (1995)

Cuba Gooding Jr. "Men of Honor" (2000)

With the exception of "An Officer and A Gentlemen," all these films are based on true events. Truth be told, I would have known a lot less about these people and their stories if not for their onscreen depictions. In fact, these movies did more than educate. One of them even cleared a name.

The film "Assualt at West Point," which featured Samuel L. Jackson, was based off the true story of Johnson Chestnut Whittaker, who was the first black man to be accepted into West Point. Whittaker was assaulted by his peers and accused of faking the incident. Whittaker was found guilty and subsequently expelled in 1881. By the time "Assualt at West Point" had aired in 1994, a movement to clear Whittaker's name was in full effect, and in 1995 then President Clinton presented a posthumous commission to Whittaker's family.

It is important that we not forget the sacrifices of those who have served in the armed forces have made for us on this day. Not everyone has a movie made about their lives or achievements, but every person who has ever fought for this country certainly deserves the respect and gratitude of all Americans on this Memorial Day.

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