Celebrating African-American service in the U.S. Military

Today is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Parks. This year’s Black History Month celebrates African Americans in times of war. Manatee County Public Libraries all stand ready to honor military service by black Americans, with books for all ages, films, government documents, ebooks and online resources.

Rosa Parks lived a hardworking, famous life in Alabama devoted to family and social justice work. Our Manatee County libraries have a thorough biography of her available in large-print for easy access: “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks” by Jeanne Theoharis. She was connected to military service since her husband Raymond Parks was a civilian worker at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.

Born in 1913 in Tuskegee, Ala., she lived through the years of WWI and WWII, seeing the rise of the famous Tuskegee Airmen at nearby Moton Field. Their story is found in four handy books, one of them a U.S. government document: “With Courage: The U. S. Army Air Forces in World War II.” Firstly, and spot on: “Strength for the Fight: A History of Black Americans in the Military” by Bernard Nalty, also “Deadly Sky” by John C. McManus at Manatee County libraries. Another book, for young readers, focuses on “Red Tail” pilot Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. in the illustrated “African-American Aviators” by Stanley P. Jones.

Truthfully, anyone who has held a military aircraft on course, on altitude, with bomb bays open respects the courage and dedication of the Tuskegee Airmen, who unflinchingly flew fighter cover. Want more? Meet African-American Navy fighter/bomber pilot, Ensign Jesse Brown, a Korean War hero. Check out “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice” by Adam Makos (author of “A Higher Call”). A duo for the ages, Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner were fast friends in the air and into the jaws of death.

Hollywood’s action film “Red Tails” thrillingly depicts the Tuskegee Airmen story. Expect exciting aerial combat scenes immediately, with George Lucas of “Star Wars” fame as filmmaker of “Red Tails.” Regarding films: our libraries have the companion volume to PBS’s documentary “Eyes on the Prize” written by Juan Williams and a nonfiction account of the making of Henry Hampton’s “Eyes on the Prize” documentary: “True South” by John Else. “The Eyes on the Prize” companion spells out how civil rights literacy programs enabled parents to write sons in military service far from home.

Leaping from filmmaker Henry Hampton to Hampton Virginia, find the hit film “Hidden Figures” or print copies of Margot Lee Shetterly’s “Hidden Figures,” including a youth adaptation in our ebook collection. Celebrating this year’s Black History Month saluting African Americans in times of war would not be complete without honoring Katherine Johnson, her team and other figures who led to Cold War victory.

Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday.