/Morgan Freeman Shines Long-Overdue Spotlight On Black War Heroes In New Documentary

Morgan Freeman Shines Long-Overdue Spotlight On Black War Heroes In New Documentary

When it comes to trailblazers in Black history, the names Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Maya Angelou are often mentioned, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. There are a vast number of Black stories that have long been swept under the rug.

Now actor Morgan Freeman is shining a spotlight on the 761st Tank Battalion, the first all-Black tank unit to serve in combat during World War II. The unsung heroes of that brave Army team led the United States in defeating Nazi Germany and changed the scope of the six-year-long war.

“It doesn’t make any sense that American history doesn’t include Black people to the extent that it should,” Freeman says in a trailer for the film.

The documentary comes as the efforts of Black pioneers are being erased in droves as right-wing politicians work to eradicate stories of Black excellence in revised curriculums in schools and repudiate the struggles of Black Americans throughout history.

Freeman, who said he’s been chasing the story of the 761st “forever,” was the executive producer for the History Channel documentary, “761st Tank Battalion: The Original Black Panthers,” which is set to premiere Sunday.

The Oscar winner said that what struck him the most about this story was “the fact that all of this is true, and nobody knows about it,” he told HuffPost.

Freeman, who served in the Air Force straight out of high school, has personal ties to the heroes’ stories. Two relatives, Uncle Jesse and Uncle Willie, were called to fight in WWII, but the mystery of their whereabouts after serving in the military has left him seeking answers for decades.

The questions surrounding their journeys helped motivate Freeman to embark on the documentary and uncover the lost and unwritten stories of countless Black soldiers.

Throughout the documentary, Freeman finds out many new facts about the 761st and even about his family members who served in the military.

“This is America’s success. This is how we managed to do what we did. We are all in this together. We were then, and believe it or not, we are now,” Freeman told HuffPost of the legacy of the 761st.

When asked what surprised him the most about the 761st’s history while shooting the documentary, he said “the fact that [they] were the first American troops to meet up with the Russians.”

He added: “That was a big political issue.”

The film’s director, Phil Bertelsen (“Who Killed Malcolm X”), added: “To know that they had, as someone in the film says, ‘run through the German army’s toughest forces like a knife through warm butter’ was a shock to me. And then to know that they had to fight for that recognition.”

Morgan Freeman speaking to Lloyd J. Austin III, the first Black secretary of defense.
Morgan Freeman speaking to Lloyd J. Austin III, the first Black secretary of defense.

The HISTORY Channel + André Chung

In the riveting documentary, Freeman speaks with one of the last surviving members of the 761st, Cpl. Robert C. Andry, and the first Black secretary of defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, to uncover the history of the unrelenting men who endured a record-breaking 183 grueling days in combat and liberated 30 towns on their crusade into Germany.

The “761st Tank Battalion” explores “the major battles” the group faced both overseas and in the United States in the fight for equality.

“Despite facing unprecedented adversity, these brave men lived up to their tenacious motto, “Come Out Fighting,” and became one of the most accomplished tank battalions in U.S. military history,” a news release for the film says.

Morgan Freeman speaks to several military personnel.
Morgan Freeman speaks to several military personnel.

The HISTORY Channel + André Chung

Bertelsen told HuffPost he “feels privileged and grateful” to be able to tell the stories of the 761st.

“If I’ve learned anything telling our history, it’s that there is so much left untold. Just the mere asking of the question can lead to this great Pandora’s box of opportunities to tell more stories,” Bertelson said. “And this film, the ’761st Tank Battalion,’ was up to the task.”

Bertelsen quotes Freeman in the documentary when talking about what he hopes viewers will take away from the film: “If you want to tell your story, you’ve got to tell it yourself.”

“761st Tank Battalion: The Original Black Panthers” airs on the History Channel beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday.

Original Source