I saw this film a few months ago at a screening at BFI London South Bank, as part of the African Odysseys series.
The Negro Soldier was commissioned by the U.S. War Department and directed by Frank Capra as a piece of wartime propaganda.
It depicts African American men and women training to go to war, and in various wartime posts on and off the battlefield.
I had really wanted to see this film because my Dad served in the Army during the war, fighting in Italy.
The Negro Soldier is very moving and stirring. As ever, Capra knew how to inform, entertain and pull the heart-strings. We can see the pride with which African Americans served their country.
Although I am sure it was an effective piece of propaganda, my Dad did not join up because of this or any other film. He joined up in 1940, before the U.S. entered the war, because he didn’t have a job.
Similarly, as Michael Moore said in Bowling for Columbine, the armed forces today recruit in poor neighbourhoods where unemployment is high. Then they send people – many of whom are Black – to places like Iraq and Afghanistan as cannon fodder.
The contribution of African people to the war effort is often overlooked. For example, African soldiers fighting in the French Army liberated Paris, but were not allowed to be filmed when the Army marched into Paris. For more about this, see Hidden Histories: Black People in WWII.
Brother T. of Black History Walks has done a lot of research about Black people in World War II. Click here for more resources, including Black Victims of the Germans and Nazis, and to read my interview with Brother T.
Excellent reminder of our hidden history. And speaking of poor and Black people as cannon fodder: I was rather surprised to see that most of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan were white. On the nightly news, they show us pictures of the soldiers who were killed that week and every now and then they show a Black face, but there are not a lot of them. Don't know what that means, since there are definitely still a lot of poor Black and Brown folks in the U.S.
Thanks very much for your comment.
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