Veterans Day is a time for people in the United States to pause and give thanks to those who have served and are serving in our armed forces. I took a moment this past weekend to reflect on and appreciate the sacrifice some of my own relatives and friends have made in military service. On such occasions, people should be able to turn to documentaries to help expand and affirm their knowledge about how this nation came to be and on whose shoulders we stand. Sadly, the documentary archives are thin when it comes to content about African Americans in the military, despite our long and enduring history of service.
While a few documentaries about African-American service men and women have had broad exposure—for instance For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriot, (trailer above) which aired on PBS in 2010 —I can’t name many. And while the role of African Americans usually merits a few minutes of attention in documentaries about our nation’s troops—for instance in The Great War (American Experience), The Abolitionists (American Experience), and most recently, Vietnam (by Ken Burns)—they’re seldom the main focus. I’m not aware of any that explore the experience of African Americans serving in this century’s Gulf wars. Nor am I aware of any that have been produced or directed by Black filmmakers. Of course, I don’t claim to know everything.
Our veterans deserve not only our appreciation, but our acknowledgment of their service. What better way to do that than through documentaries? Those sowing doubt about whether African Americans are fully entitled to all the liberties and rights our citizenship accords, either do not know or wish to ignore our role in U.S. history. Those of us who are in a position to document and share this history of military service, should proceed to set the record straight.
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