When Motown Went to War… Against War
During the Vietnam conflict, soul music accompanied both the anti-war movement and the overlapping struggle for black civil rights. Many R&B and soul musicians abandoned their traditional subjects—love and heartbreak—and replaced them … with protest. They transformed the genre over the objections of some music executives. “Someone like Marvin ,... Read more
The Secret to Making a Good Black War Movie
A Soldier’s Story is a film about an all-black U.S. Army unit in World War II. The 1984 surprise hit has action, mystery, suspense and—more importantly—a 30-year-old Denzel Washington in a small role. It’s one of Denzel’s first film appearances. And the first instance of a peculiar Hollywood phenomenon.... Read more
The Man Who Could Have Killed Hitler
The Man Who Could Have Killed Hitler Henry Tandey regretted not pulling the trigger during World War I On Sept. 28, 1918 on a battlefield in France, a wounded German soldier shuffled right into the line of fire of a British soldier named Henry Tandey. Tandey raised his rifle.... Read more
Charlie Chaplin Made Hitler Cry
Charlie Chaplin already had more than 100 silent movies under his belt when, in 1938, he decided to take on the role of Adolf Hitler. When The Great Dictator came out two years later, it was the first time Chaplin spoke on film. In the The Great Dictator, Chaplin... Read more
The Best Spy Show Nobody Is Watching
Did you know that basic cable network AMC has a series about American espionage during the Revolutionary War? Yeah, us neither … until very recently. Turn is the best new spy show that practically nobody is watching. Which is weird. AMC should be frantically looking for its next big thing... Read more
That One Time a Civil War Slave Totally Stole a Confederate Steamship
During the American Civil War, a black slave named Robert Smalls stole a Confederate steamship from under the noses of Southern troops—and sailed the vessel all the way to Union territory. It was May 13, 1862 in Charleston, South Carolina. Smalls, a native of the nearby city of Beaufort,... Read more
The Strange and Awful History of Blacks in Nazi Germany
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler hated blacks almost as much as he hated Jews. In his autobiography Mein Kampf, Hitler referred to Afro-Germans as “Rhineland bastards”—a reference to the children of German and African parents. Among other forms of oppression, the Nazis sterilized German blacks. The intent was to prevent... Read more
Japanese Pitcher Could Have Been a U.S. Baseball Star—But Fought America Instead
American baseball integrated its first black player, Jackie Robinson, in 1947. But if it had been up to one general manager, the sport would’ve added non-whites much earlier. In the mid-1930s, the Philadelphia Athletics’ Connie Mack tried to recruit Japanese pitcher Eiji Sawamura. But World War II intervened. And... Read more
Joe Louis Boxed Nazi Germany
Joe Louis is one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time. The white American public—thoroughly racist during Louis’ lifetime—loved him even though he was black. Most incredibly, Louis enlisted in the segregated U.S. Army during World War II, at the height of his boxing career. How Louis’ country... Read more
Tuskegee Airmen and the Black War Correspondent
It was a wet morning in 1943 at Selfridge Field, the Army Air Corps training base near Detroit where the all-black 332nd Fighter Group—the famed Tuskegee Airmen—was preparing for the war in Europe. The airmen had company. Gordon Parks, America’s first black war correspondent, played cards with the pilots... Read more
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