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Speaking Volumes: Tuskegee Airman to speak Saturday at the Central Library

African Americans have served in every war since the inception of this nation. From the Revolutionary War to the recent wars in the Middle East, African Americans have fought valiantly to preserve the freedoms that we, as Americans, hold dear, and, historically, to secure their rightful place as American citizens.

On Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m., notable veterans of color, including one of the last living Tuskegee Airman, Lt. Col. George Hardy, will honor the Manatee County Central Library and the community as they share their experiences as American soldiers of color. There will be a special film screening of the documentary "Veterans of Color," produced and directed by local filmmaker Mark Parry, which features moving interviews with veterans of color. After the screening, WWII veteran Lt. Col, George Hardy, Vietnam Veteran Henry Blyden, Korean War Veteran Sylvester Myers and former U.S. Marine Lee Washington will take part in a panel discussion and receive questions from the audience.

The Manatee County Library system has various materials that inform about the African American war experience.

"The Negro in the American Revolution" by Benjamin Quarles is a classic book written by one of the leading American historians. Quarles' book is comprehensive in its scope, covering the many important roles African Americans played during the American Revolution. From soldiers, to spies, to laborers, African Americans staked their claim for freedom, serving with courage and determination.

Our most deadly and intimate war took place on the farms and fields of America -- the Civil War was the first war that included large numbers of African Americans. Although African Americans had fought in every war on American soil until that time, never had they been gathered into permanent units. Joyce Hansen's "Between Two Fires: Black Soldiers in the Civil War" provides a compelling narrative about these soldiers' recruitment, their struggle for proper training, supplies, and compensation, as well as their heroic performance on the battlefield.

An elite contingent of African American pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen flew fighter planes during World War II. Numerous films have been made telling their remarkable stories, including the PBS documentary "The Tuskegee Airmen" and film dramas such as HBO's "The Tuskegee Airmen" featuring Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding Jr., as well as "Red Tails," starring Terrence Howard and David Oyelowo. Along with these films, Patricia and Frederick McKissak's "Red Tail Angels: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII" and Lynn Homan's "Black Knights: The Story of the Tuskegee Airmen" are must reads.

The Vietnam War took many young lives and traumatized Americans of every race and walk of life. The complex experiences of African Americans serving in this war are presented in "Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans," edited by Wallace Terry. Published in 1985, this "New York Times Notable Book of the Year" contains powerful testimonies from a group that was sent over to Vietnam in disproportionate numbers: African American males. Twenty Veterans share their stories in this compelling oral history.

You can also access the library via mymanatee.org/library.

Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. Jyna Scheeren is a reference librarian and Program Coordinator in the Manatee County Public Library System.

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