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tv   Book Discussion on The Harlem Hellfighters  CSPAN  May 11, 2014 9:00am-9:55am EDT

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>> next on booktv, max brooks recounts the first african-american regiment to fight in world war world war i,h infantry regiment, dubbed the hard bell hell fighters. -- harlem hell fighters. he spoke for a little under an hour. ..
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what japan did to china again. but i'm not sure what to do this done because its pictures. to we just all go like, wow, look at that and here's another page. [laughter] wow. when going to do instead is talk about it for a little while, talk about this project how it came to be, why i'm doing and take questions from you guys. in 1917, the united states entered its first war of choice. what i mean by war of choice is a war that we didn't hav have to fight and were we weren't sure we wanted to fight. because every war up until then had had a very concrete goal, which was a war of independence from britain, or a war to hold the unit together and free slaves, or we really like
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california. we're going to take it away from mexico. but whatever the reasons were it was concrete where as the first world war was the first war of a serial ideal. this weird idea and this idea was hatched by president woodrow wilson. this was a war to make us safe for democracy, to make the world safe for democracy. that sounds great. what a noble cause, marching off to make the world safe for democracy. but what does it mean for soldiers who didn't have democracy at home? that's what this book is about. in 1917, the united states sent over a group of its own soldiers and set them up to fail. they gave them inadequate training. initially they didn't give them uniforms. in fact, they didn't even give
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them rifles to train with because they're too busy giving away rifles to private rifle clubs so civilians could improve their marksmanship so then they could to fight a war. so this unit actually had to write to the american government pretends to be private rifle clubs to get their own guns. this unit was then sent to train in the deep south in that tiny little town called spartanburg, which is not what you'd call a haven of racial brotherhood. brotherhood. as a matter fact they are said to train in spartanburg two weeks after one of the worst race riots in american history, in houston, where black soldiers actually write it and shot down and was then shot up themselves, by the police and white military authorities and the whole unit was disgrace. two weeks later under the black unit is sent to south carolina, on accident? especially when the mayor of
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spartanburg wrote to "the new york times" and said, do not send them here. there's going to be trouble. so this unit was sent to spartanburg and their given orders, don't fight back. you guys all here of jackie robinson. deny he is famous for not fighting back. this as a whole unit of that. when we say not fighting back, i'm not dissing jackie robinson but basically there's a difference between people yelling at you from the stands and actually getting beaten up on the streets which is what happened to these guys. they were ordered to not fight back. because if you do they will blame everything on you and the unit will not be sent overseas and we will be disgrace. they held back with superhuman discipline. and, finally, they got a chance to get overseas. and then they were sent to dig ditches, and that was infuriating. i finally, finally lobbied to be put into combat. here's the rub. during the first world war the
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united states was kind of late to the game. and by this point the british and french really wanted we enforcement. they kept saying to the americans, good, you're in the war, give us reinforcements. general pershing said no. we are not just going to feed america's piecemeal into the british and french. these units will fight as an american unit under an american flag, ma except for the black guys. you guys can go. they gave them to the french. so this unit which had poor training, poor equipment, had to write for the own rifles. were and -- were eventually kicked out of its own army and loaned out to a foreign power. what happened to them? they fough thought so valley eln combat that they ended up coming home as one of the most decorated units in entire united states army. [applause] >> that's what i think.
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that was the star of the harlem hellfighters. one of the worst things that was done to them was they weren't allowed to march off in a parade. that's what happens with soldiers. that's one thing, one of the good things about being a soldier is before you go off to war, some of you may not come back an, all of you get to feel special. all of you get to march down main street and the tickertape comes and they waved flags and make if you could. in nukes at all the national guard units were put together in what was called the rainbow division and they were sent off to fight and they all got to march off to war together, except these guys. i'm not kidding because they were told black is not the color of the rainbow. they got the parade when they came home. they marched up fifth avenue and over 1 million new yorkers of every skin color turned out to welcome them home. the first american, not black american from the first american of any skin color to win the french medal was one of these guys, henry johnson the entire
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unit one that no. this the more time in combat than any other american unit. they never lost a foot of graphic they never lost a man to capture. at the end of the war when the germans were massing for one big push on paris, one point is nothing between paris and the germans in the sector except these guys. they stopped the kaiser's best. one little side note. their regimental band introduced a previously unknown form of music to the europeans call the jazz. that's the story of the harlem hellfighters and that's the story have literally been trying to tell for 16 years. that's their story. here's mine. i'm 11 years old, and don't worry about the math, and getting to the. i've been trying to do for 16 years but i've known it for 30. agenda working for my parents whose an anglo rhodesian, an englishman who growth in rhodesia.
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he was studying at ucla and the learned about marxist garvey, using a project so he told a sort of just nonsense about the harlem hellfighters. he said did you know there was units of black americans that were given to the french, became one of the most decorated unit in entire u.s. army even though the u.s. army didn't want them? when you're a white kid growing up in a good part of l.a., that kind of injustice is not normal. so that was pretty shocking for me. 11 and a good site ability or did that will happen? what? really? oh, my goodness. so i was constantly interested in this and i kept studying about the health fighters as much as i could. when i was 20 i did my semester abroad at college. you go to college, have a great time and venue to a semester abroad in europe and have a great time to get drunk and throw up over there. just like you do over here. except people talk differently.
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it's pretty much your semester abroad. ego these buildings are old. i did not do that. i went somewhere else. i went to university of the virgin islands in st. thomas did before you think i was just laying on the beach, it was the reverse. i had already vacationed about life and i've thought 20, come here since i was at you and i know absolute nothing about these people. i know the beach, the resort, the happy smiles. i know nothing about the caribbean as a place. i figure i'm going to use that time this semester abroad to go down there instead history and political science and learned about the. and i did. and i learned what it's like to be a racial minority for the first time. before we get all high and mighty let's make sure it was a semester. i got to go home afterwards. it was like a little grain of rice in a giant buffett of racial relations.
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but it did make me feel for the first time what it feels like to wear a uniform that i can't take off and to be prejudged by that uniform, no matter who i am. some people back home, some people like me, some people didn't. lots of points but that was because of me and my mouth. not because of this. when i was down there i had a professor, an amazing man, and he was a throwback to the '60s. because we were the character -- chris rock scared assad not live? that was him. passionate, angry. he said the greatest crime the way people committed against black people in america was to bury the past accomplishments, which blew me away because i thought that's really true because you can break that down as an individual but when you're trying to raise a child and they don't have confidence and says, i can't do it, the first thing you say is you can do it because you've already done other things. i say this not because i'm prepared and had to do this.
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in my nine year old so they can do, i say yes again. my son says the right. if my son had no accomplishments or if i had buried them, he would have no confidence. i would realize that works on a macro group as well. that's huge to bury those accomplishments, bury that kind of history. so i realized wow, that's an incredible crime. like i said, why god, sheltered life, had a lot to learn. when i was in the virgin islands i discovered some grace from 1917 to 1918, and the by professor. i said, were these the harlem hellfighters? and this professor who said to me all about history said who are they? he didn't know. that's how obscure it was. flash forward to the 1990s. but i don't know if you remember
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this, tnt made buffalo soldiers, danny glover, and i thought it was tnt but i think spike lee just directed me. it was hbo that made the original tuskegee airmen. not read tales. the original tuskegee airmen with troop including judy. these movies came out within a year of each other. it was an eye-opener because i thought this is a moment, and opportunity for african-american military movies. so i decided to write a screenplay, "the harlem hellfighters" and the was a lot back then. the first book i bought off a new website called was like this big. but then i found this amazing book called from harlem to the rhine. that was an original memoir of a guy who actually fought. so i read that. i got a cd recording of the original music from the regimental band them one of the founding fathers of jazz, so
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most amazing jazz lyrics i've ever heard. war lyrics, poetry. and i also got a documentary from 1970s called the men of bronze, one of the last two hellfighters left alive. that was my core research material. i wrote the script, went to tnt -- know, nobody wanted to tnt didn't want it. nobody wanted it. years and years, and when you're young and you're struggling initially blame yourself. you initially think well, it's my fault, i'm a bad writer. i had one meeting that changed everything. with lavar burton. a friend of ours had i known of our burden to description. he said i want to be with you. he said if i could make this an rbi would. i don't have the power to direct it but i would typically. i'm not going to give up and you shouldn't either the in what he said to me was there's a few harlem hellfighters scripts making the rounds right now.
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but yours comes closest to the truth. well, let me backtrack and say that when you're a dyslexic kid and you have struggled it's going just to be tutored for hours a day just to pull off a see, and dozens of them tell you you're done your homework, yes, sir i will not give up. so that's what kept my fire lit. but finally after so many rejections from hollywood i realized i'm done with hollywood because hollywood is based on economics. and, finally, i realized war movies are big and expensive, nobody wants to make this movie, fun. i was getting into comics at this point. i had written was at zombie -- i written in g.i. joe hearts and minds. okay, brandon us what you want to do next? i think random house was hoping for world war ii, searching for money. i said i want to do this. yeah, okay. let's give it to him. avt will write "world war z"
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part two. so they gave me this thing as sort of idol, just keeping have become a kind of like how to give martin scorsese -- hoping he would make casino. that's what they're kind of hoping with me was like give him his black world war what soldier story and then we'll get "world war z," part two, three and four. by that point i done a lot more research and i've learned not just about them but also about the world in which they lived in the greater war and the greater culture, the great migration. what was at stake. and i sat down with his amazing artist, and six years
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just weren't going to conclude anything that's not important. when you read a comic book it's official. you have to see everything. so when you're writing something historic all you have to do your homework just to make sure you don't screw up the background, the hairstyles, the clothing, all that stuff just so you're breaking even, just we are getting it right. i was like the research assistant. i had to send him all this stuff. i'm not kidding, we have four feet of research material of books stacked up of which once all of that was nothing but uniforms of world war i, weapons of world war i, pictures from harlem, all that kind of stuff just to make sure we got it right. so it was quite an endeavor and i'm very proud of it. so that is "the harlem hellfighters." as normal i'm tired of hearing myself talk. i put one poor guy to sleep. don't wake him.
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so i'm going to open -- not you. it was someone over here. how are you doing? a. hey. i'm going to open the floor to questions. apparently -- thank you, thank you. [applause] i think how we are supposed to do this is where going to be like an old '70s talk show where someone is going to raise their hand, and these two sprightly young lasses will run to you with a microphone. so questions anyone? yes, sir. >> i hope you don't mind if i ask you about "world war z." >> you can ask me about a. >> at the successful movie but a lot of people who were into the book were not happy with the movie. >> they warned? but it was so true to the book. >> that's what is going to ask you. did you of anything to do with the adaptation? how did you feel about and are you concerned if it does become a movie, at the same thing will
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happen? >> excellent question. let me backtrack and say back to 11, wrote a book called "world war z" oral history of the zombie war at the movie came out with brad pitt making pancakes and it was the same title. [laughter] that's about it. was i an bald in the movie? let me put it this way. i was more involved in getting president obama elected. [laughter] literally because at least i phone banked for obama. i didn't phone bank for this movie. how do i feel about it? i don't have much of anything because it was so different. when you're a book writer you live in care of when the adapter me because you watch the characters say things they wouldn't say, do things they wouldn't do, watch your story get manipulated and just completely eviscerated. i didn't watch that all. i watched the credits roll, which by the way what a title, and then i got to watch 28 days later on crack which have actually nothing to do with my book and it was fun.
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i don't care what they do with of jerry lynn. he was making pancakes was one. i've given up a wonderful job for you because i love you. yes. to our zombies like to go around the world. and i have to check in with you everyday? i think my wife wrote that part. it was a big summer blockbuster movie. good for them. i didn't say hey, that character which i didn't make up would never say that, so it was so different that allowed me to divorce myself. am i worried that are going to change my story with "the harlem hellfighters"? no. and you know i? it's not my story. it's their story. i'm just telling it. that's a big difference. "world war z" came for me. this is a true story. so i've just chosen to tell it. because it is a tryst with our limits to how much they can do. you know what i mean? like with "world war z" h. in the book and had to do with a lot of really angry book fans.
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but they didn't have to deal with like the families of the real people from the book which they would if they had to change the. so there's limits, plus did you guys know about the movie deal? here's the irony of my career. all those years i told you about getting rejected, here, screenplay? you don't want it? you don't want a? find that i'm going to write a book. enough with hollywood. high, it's hollywood. two weeks before this book and i got a call from will smith's company. he wants to produce it. he wants me to write the script. [applause] so now this is not to say the move is going to get made. this is not to say the eventual movie if it does get made is not going to star brad pitt. [laughter] and may be a chinese guy because the chinese market is very lucrativlucrative for hollywoods imagistic a chinese guy in there
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just in case. you know, brad pitt and -- anyway, i don't know what the end result is going to be. who knows? but what's nice is at least i get the first shot. that's more than i could ever ask for. that's where we are right now. anyone else? yes, sir. >> i think you already explained it, but why in the hell did you get so deeply involved in this, this whole experience? on me, i don't even know any black folks who were into it like you are. i mean, it's amazing to me, and you know, i'm really honoring you. i'm not putting you down. >> thank you. i think i got into initially because my dad was in world war ii. i'm 41. i'm a gen x or as they say, and most parents of people my age were baby boomers. so they grew up with stories like the drugs we did and the tv
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we watch and the unprotected sex we had an wow, and by the way, i spend all your inheritance. that generation. i grew up with world war ii parents so i go up with my dad telling stories about combat in europe and about my mother having to ration. and i remember she told how mortified she was having to graduate in like a short skirt because clothing was rationed. so that kind of america was interesting to me. i think history in general was very interesting to me because i'm always on figure out the world. i never feel like i fit in so unlike how did we get your? i think it helps me to figure out oh, here's what we came from, and that helps me understand things. sometimes it's more upsetting, like i met the guys know that ted nugent just called the president a subhuman mongrel. if you don't know history you think ted nugent is an idiot. yes, he is, but that goes a lot
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deeper because to call someone a mongrel if you touch on something a lot worse than hatred of black people. it's hatred of race mixing. i did know that going up until i read about and i realize the worst thing you could commit in this country was to have a black man mpeg made a white woman. that was it. that was the worst thing that could ever happen. so when ted nugent is doing that, he's not just being a stupid rock star. he's calling upon a very age-old tradition of hatred. so for me history is on his important to know where you are and to know where you come from. and something like ted nugent tells me yes, we have made tremendous progress in this country but we sure have a ways to go. yes, ma'am. >> this is a two-part question. >> did you said a two-part or a jew part?
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half of me can answer that. okay. >> why did you decide to write as the comic book knowing that would limit its t.o.? and didn' did it have anything o with being dyslexic? >> three reasons. i'll tell you that for three reasons. first of all, first of all, i decided to do as the comic book, well, like we said before, i did want to do it anymore as a movie because you need a budget. this is actually, somebody told me, when i was in my 20s i took a screenwriting course at ucla after it's been all my parents money on graduate school. your mom, more money. but i took it because of some i really admire. he create a show in the 1980s of the. he's african-american. it was a war show called tour of duty. i loved that show as a kid. he said to me, and he was talking to harlem hellfighters to be with telling, the bulk of actors in hollywood our young
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white males. so if you make a character anything except a young white male your limiting your casting possibilities. so it didn't take much for me to say, all, my whole cast is black. so that stuff. if i did as a comic book i don't have to worry about that. a comic book specifically visually, remember when -- i am very dyslexic and i know how hard it is to be. reading was so hard. i grew up in privilege. i'll admit it. album and in the world couldn't help me read better. i had to develop tools to try to learn how to read him how to study, like my mom. she took all my school reading to the institute for the blind, the bread institute, had them read on audio books so i could listen to my schoolwork otherwise i probably would not have made. comic books were very important for me. i got to learn. just get into the discipline every because reading is a discipline. it's like playing a sport. you've got to do it every day. you got to get used to otherwise
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it becomes intimidating. form a comic book for great about just sort of sitting down and reading. another reason, a third reason i did it was i never wanted the reader to forget what color these guys are. because i think when you write a book sometimes you can lose yourself in it. and i wanted that to be on every page. because these guys never forgot what color they were. for a moment i forgot when i first got to france, they were treated as equals, this is great. the hell fighters did so well in combat that the american army eventually had to write to the french government, a special modem to say listen, stop praising them. because you don't want to vote up with his ideas and have them come home. and literally, do not praise them extensively, especially in the presence of white men. do not shake hands with them. do not visit with him on anything but pure military matters but it was this whole
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memorandum and delivery said don't spoil them. so i wanted people to never forget who are reading this, yeah, these guys are black at every step of the way. so that's what i did as a comic. she gets two more questions. oh, my gosh, run quick. >> did the purple heart exist then? did own country give them commensurate honors because that's an excellent question. >> and what percentage died? >> they had a heavy percentage in combat. but i will say about honoring them. henry johnson, the first american to win the french medal, he won because one night out in no man's land and a private roberts were in a listening post at what happened in the first world war was guys would try to rate each other's trenches. to try to jump on the listening post, grab th a guy, bringing bk and torture him for information
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the johnson and robert are out in the middle of no man's land in this barb wire hole, and a whole platoon of germans jumps on them. and grenades are going off in their firing their rifles. by the way, they are ratty old french rifles there can because all the american stuff was taken away. they were given these old worn-out french rifles that were inaccurate and only carried three bullets. roberts is hit and he's done. johnson runs out of bullets. he swings his rifle like a club cracking over a guy said, pulls out his knife, jumps on them. he stabbing them. he drives them off. drives them off. these are germans. you know, these are the kaiser's best and they run shrieking into the night. johnson becomes a hero overnight. he becomes the first public american hero. and 100 years later he gets a medal from the kind of government. i think it was like 2003 or something like that. the bush administration gave him the legion of merit at the
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legion of merit, that's a big metal. but i guarantee you had he been white, he would've gotten the medal omedal of honor. had even what you would've gotten the medal of honor in 1918. and had he been white, gary cooper would have played him instead of sergeant york year and had this unit been white, james cagney would not have done the fighting 69th, he would have done the fighting 369th. this is another thing that really -- is such as they were black and had to conquer racism, it's their combat record. conquering racism was bad enough but then to succeed so spectacularly in a war that, let's face it, doesn't create a lot of hero's. when i was a kid i saw the movie glory, a great story about what they had to accomplish by that this unit been white it wouldn't have been that interesting a story. it would event about a white story -- these guys are
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objectively regardless of race were stunning soldiers with a stunning record. and so that's one of things that was so exciting. they were not awarded by the american government. the french government was so grateful for them. thank you. thank you for coming and risking your lives on our soil. that's why the whole unit one the medal. if you go to the museum they are still there. very active member of the new york national guard to they've been in every war. even now they're doing, giving committee made in western africa. out with their commanding officer. when you walk into the you know, the ribbon is emblazoned on the entrance to remind them of the awesome reputation of this unit. and their commanding officer now every day he says he makes, he types of a report to colonel a
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word, the first colonel from 1917. because he knows, he knows like i can tarnish the reputation of this unit. this is a famous unit. so that's more about the hell fighters. yes, ma'am. >> i have a short question. how many harlem hellfighters were there in the unit? when i try to visualize them stopping the kaiser -- >> it's a regiment, several under the they didn't stop the whole army. they stopped it in their sector. basically in every sector they were dipping in its. they were there with a french. they stop them and then that baby had come back out of the trenches and marched to lead a french guinea. then they advanced and the first unit of not just of any color, of any country to reach the rhine river. just the achievements of this just goes on and on and on. one of the greatest african-american painters of the early 20th century was horace
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pippin. he was in the hellfighters. there's a beautiful book called i tell my heart, i give him a shot at in the hellfighters. gave him one little line. it's like to wasn't in this unit? and back to james -- imagine in the country so horrifically racist as america's 1917, to be a black celebrity and to be the toast of new york and every restaurant you walk into people just stand up and applaud. thank you. to give that up, to go get in the trenches because europe said i'll go, i'll go and i'll your head your regimental band but when the shooting starts, laid down the baton and ahead of a machine gun. to give that up, that's like kanye west going to iraq last night did you imagine that? could you imagine like asher being listen, i will go to afghanistan but when the shooting starts i want to be on the front lines. justin bieber, listen, i need to drive a tank. it's not going to happen.
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anyone else in? >> i read a novel written from, thing from the renaissance. no, i'm not sure but the book is called mr. blackman and it talks about the involvement of black soldiers from the revolutionary war through i believe world war ii, or maybe even vietnam. in that section on world war i he talks about the use of black regiment in no man's land to test for gas, that that 2% out in front of the white troops to test if the germans were using gas. and i was wondering if that was an accurate reflection of what did, in fact, happen, if you find any evidence of any research? >> let me put it this way. when i was researching -- i did not involve the hellfighters because what happened with hellfighters with the first black unit in combat. later more black units came around, so much so that the
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organist to actual whole black divisions, the whole fighters then fought with the 93rd division and then there was the 92nd vision and they were set up to fail. so i wouldn't be surprised. i definitely would not be surprised. one of the things about world war i which made it different from other wars were black soldiers would come it was the first time yet a large black officers. that was really scary for the white status quo because they had already accepted that black men could be brave and fight, kind of like a horse or a dog, but to lead men in combat. nothing takes more intelligence than that. to be, under pressure when bullets are flying and the gas is rising, to lead men showed an extraordinary amount of not just intelligence but intelligence and courage. you can have a very intelligent guy, but if you start shooting at me, oh, my pants. you know. to be called, you go here, you
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go here. that's terrifying for the status quo because if these guys can lead men in combat, what kind of leadership are they capable of when they get home? and so that's what i created the character of lieutenant adams. i did want to just show how much fear there was a black officers. i wanted to show the pressure. imagine, you're an officer. to lead your men, it's hard enough to be an officer of any color, to keep these guys alive, but to be the vanguard of a new breed of leaders, college educated, to show what you can do. i have a scene where what you on the boat going over, everybody is getting sea sick. can i go out? everyone thinks he sees a place not. he's flashing back to this scene i made up, like you are the torchbearers of the future. you know, who will carry the epitaph of hero? he vomits over the side because
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he is so terrified. i think that is something because in my research that's what i kept coming back to was the officer class and how that was a very new thing. anyone else? >> what happened to people after the war was over and they went home? >> they came home to the worst racial violence we've ever had in this country, it's called the red summer of 1919. [inaudible] >> no, no. they were all from the north. i'm going -- i've never done this before but i'm going to throw in a personal story that my mother told me, which blew my mind. my mom was a very famous actress. her name was anne bancroft. she won the academy award and then the next year it was her job to present it to the next winner who is sidney poitier. it is tradition, it was tradition back then for the women given the oscar to the
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men, give the cheek. that's what you do. well, it was the first time a white woman had kissed a black guy at the oscars. here's the funny part. she got hate mail, but the hate mail from the south was actually just condescending. it was just like, how could you do that? don't you know they are not like as? but the hate mail from the north was a death threats. the hate mail from the north was violent and angry. and so these guys, even though they were from the south, there was tremendous amount of racism from the north. i try to talk about old in "the harlem hellfighters." this is the time of the great migration. this is why there was such a backlash against these guys. it was all well and good to be an abolitionist in the north where there were no black people but suddenly when millions of them are coming in moving into neighborhoods and working in the stuttgart to chicago and the factories of new york, southern white people got in touch with their inner racist, and it was
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virulent. so the north was a horrible, horrible place in 1919. it was just race riots everywhere. that's what happens. when i was a kid in 10th grade i learned of this term reactionary, where an action happens in something social, political, something happened but then there is a reaction. people react. you know, the action, the slaves are freed, the reaction, some white guys put on some sheets and form a clan. so that was the reaction to these amazing compositions of world war i was all of this fear of hey, hey, don't forget your place. [inaudible] >> the officer class, this is something about the officer, this is a national guard you know, not a regular army unit the enlisted men are just 18 year old kids, some as young as
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16, 15. but the officer class like in a national guard unit are citizen soldiers. professional soldiers, that's all they do. but these guys were lawyers. napoleon bar apart more show was the low. -- napoleon bonaparte marshall was a lawyer. there's a great picture commute i should google it, a picture in the trenches together. i have noble sizzle into. jemma europe it's amazing to him they went back to jobs. run, quick. >> are you mentioned but i do sort of shopping the script in hollywood, and now sort of hollywood knocked on your door. i guess it's will smith's production company.
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and my question is sort of how, is hollywood ready for a true greedy sort of carnage warfare movie from sort of a black males prospective? the reason why i'm asking that question is because you get this sort of grit, grimy, bloody warfare. you have 300 this hyper masculine sort of powerful white male in about a quarter i want to know how to are you going to be to the content of these hellfighters and wore? many times it's almost sort of this disney effect, sort of this war and then you see these black men sort of smiling and laughing, but we can't forget that it's more. so give me your take on that. >> you can't see from here, but this is what happens to the human body when it's hit by high explosive shell at close range. not the shrapnel, the sheer energy of the explosion is
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absorbed by the water in the human body and the flesh is literally blown off the bones. will that end up in a movie? i have no idea. this is why i did it as this. this is the lesson i learned from this. because the truth is in hollywood i don't know. i don't know if hollywood is ready, but ready or not care it comes. the thing is with this i can tell my story exactly how. i can share the rats. i can show the lies. i can show the gas. i can show the skeletons that are rotting out at no man's land and then writing out there for years. i can show horrible racist language that even made me cringe as i was writing it. like i wish i could just call up a friend, like made from s&l, tracy morgan from its max brooks, remember me? listen, i feel real bad but can you write this for me? but i can show it all, and that's what's important. i'm glad you brought that up.
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i started get criticism about this. people started to i think brooks is going for shock effect. no. every piece of violence in this, i'm glad you brought this up, is based on actual research. nothing is gratuitous. i did not make it any act of violence in this comic book. everything is based in everything i read. the flesh being blown off came off him an actual passage i read in a book. is first in the trenches, is like where are the germans, over there. really? gets shot in head. that was an actual thing i heard in the imperial war museum. everything in it is 100% based in research, and it is graphic because this is a horrible, horrible war. i mean, and look, i know it's going to be disturbing for some people. i know there are probably some older people like to probably alderman from a couple generations ago were not going to like the battle of eddie johnson. and i actually have one of my characters can remember i talked before about why some characters are fictional because they can
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say things that make real guy -- i wouldn't want to offend the comment that i have a fictional guy who sobered up with hatred and his friends ally, why are you here then? he goes, why am i here? white people kill me to kill other white people? glory hallelujah. i could get with the real guy but it's in the. there's a lot of stuff that may be controversial. i got in trouble because henry johnson when he had done this amazing feat, there was this racist southern bigot, back then we would call him a white american, but horrible, horrible racist guy. he had a total change of heart and he wrote this amazing article abou about henry johnsos pizza there was and what he said from this day -- i can read something. how about that? let's read what irving j. cobb, irvin s. cobb, unser, wrote about henry johnson. let's find out. here we go.
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page 124. this came out in a newspaper 1918. if ever proof was needed, which is not that the color of a man's skin has nothing to do with the color of his soul, he was offered an abundance. they were soldiers who wore the uniforms with smart pride, expressed a sincere heartfelt inclination to get a whack at their phone. -- foe. as a result of what a black soldiers are going to do in this war, a word that has been uttered billions of times, sometimes in derision, sometimes in hate but which i am sure never felt on black eaters, but they left behind a sting for the heart -- black years under in ears. here after it will merely be
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another way of spelling the word american. well, obviously that's controversial now in this politically correct culture. and hey, you know, whatever my feelings are about political correctness, i'm going to be damned if i send to the past but that's how people talk. that's what it is. so it is out there vivid, horrible imagery, horrible words, horrible deeds. that's world war i. will that end up in hollywood? i don't know. like i said, it may be an animated feature. you know, for all i know. it will be heralded and kumar go to the trenches. anyone else? yes. sticking you talk of it about how you and canyon why block out the words and the pictures?
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>> yes. i was there when you write a comic book, i didn't meet him until six months ago. i work with them after such as, never met him. it's all the e-mail. william christensen at officer, expressed together. now, william county is like the go between because he runs his own comic book, but i can't the last shoemaker. from expenses learned that writers are crazy and august are crazy and the best thing to do is get in between is so we don't make each other crazy. so i will write my script the a la senate to win. i would e-mail it to win. he will e-mail it to caanan. caanan will e-mail william back some pages. william will e-mail it to me. i will put some notes in and that's how we would do it. and that's pretty much been how we communicated for the longest time. i didn't even need to caanan and to six months ago near comic-con. we came to each other at the same time and said i love your work. what i found that was caanan is just like me, being dyslexic might a problem in school and i was always at the back of the
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class writing short stories. caanan was in the back of the room drawing with exact same problem. caanan energy jurisdiction, listen, if you can just like focus and pay attention for 20 minutes, you can spend the rest of the class drawing. caanan was like all right, there do. that incentivized him. so lucky and. so that's how we worked together. and then it was also just the research material, like i'm constantly, i bought a bunch of books. the great thing about amazon is thing about amazon if i could plug in williams address and ship it right to him. i did not to do anything. or i could find things online and e-mail and pictures. here's henry johnson. what caanan differs was i think it's more than was to draw the real people just some sketches of how they looked initially so sort of testing out the pictures. because i get anything harder than drawing a real person but i can draw a stick figure. that was my process of working with caanan white.
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anyone else? yes, ma'am. [inaudible] >> you are somebody's mother, aren't you? [inaudible] >> if you have a say in who is going to be an actor in this movie, can't actually suggest the lead in luther, that -- [inaudible] >> he's wonderful. >> who doesn't want him courts when i heard he was up for the role of james bond, i was like, come on spent if you could get him, i don't go to violent movies but i would see him spent i bet you would. so would my wife. >> and the other thing is, did any of them emigrate to france after? >> a couple, a few did afterwards but actually eugene shah bullard, he was a pilot. before the word the tuskegee
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airmen there was this guy. when i met with labarbera day to be more about them. he could be more important in the story. he actually was in france for the first world war. he's an amazing story. the guy immigrants to france before the war, then the war starts, he joined the french foreign legion, then he fights in the trenches and then he learns to fly. and he wins all these medals and the war ends. is a nightclub owner in paris, and then fights the nazis comic is decorated again and then comes back to america when france gets occupied and ended the war as an elevator operator in rockefeller center. so that sister of wha what theyl a black swallow up death. as far as casting goes, i mean, the great thing about compression stages of this country because we have a galaxy of black stars. what i love about war movies is the our ensembles but i've
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always loved movies like the longest day, i know that guy and i know that guy. i do want to get ahead of myself because i present this thing might not even get me. but how cool would that be to see every famous black star in america do just like a little role? it doesn't have to be a big role. like a walk on, a line, this, that. this is a narrative. that would be awesome. try to manage my expectations. i have to write the first script. we could take one more, one more. you've asked 15 questions. i just want to make sure someone else doesn't have anything else because if they don't, you are on deck. anyone else? yes. she has one question left in 37 parts. [laughter] >> to questions. no. [laughter] did you play with g.i. joe's as a kid and where can we find the
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music? >> okay. yes, i played with g.i. joe's and this after i bought a racial star in my g.i. joe comics. i did a rewrite, is a comic book and is like a day in light of g.i. joe's and some of the bad guys, cobra. when i was a kid and me and my friends used to play with g.i. joe, the one kid in the group who had this one action figure and his name is richard, happen to be african-american. as a shout out what it did a story of firefly, made him a black guy because it's like i make them richer. in my mind he is richard. the internet went crazy. how could he do this? why doesn't he stayed true to the original character? okay, first of all, the original character, they didn't know what race he was. he was like a white one issue, he was asian and other issue. he was a vampire i think in one issue he didn't show up on a monitor. they made him a sniper.
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okay, second, he wears a freaking mask. so literally i made this much of him black. but that was enough. so yes, that was g.i. joe. and as far as we can get the music, i ordered it on amazon. you can still get it. it's like the collected works of james -- you can get it on cd. it's james europa and noble sissel, i think that's how it's done. it's amazing stuff. i encourage everyone to go on amazon and get james reese europe's music. i think, i could talk about this all night, but 16 years in the making. but thank you, everybody for coming out. i really appreciate it. i know it's a beautiful night outside so i appreciate you being here in the bunker listening to me talk. thank you. [applause]
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>> [inaudible conversations] >> yes, sir nonfiction author book you like to see featured on booktv? send us an e-mail at or tweet us at >> you are watching booktv on c-span2 with top nonfiction books and authors every weekend. booktv, television for serious readers. >> the limits of government are very clear in the constitution. you have administrative functions or enforcing contracts, this sort of thing, coining money. and yup national defense. when government sticks to those functions it h


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