Friday, June 27, 2008

First to Fight - the Black Tankers of WWII

The 761st Tank Battalion made history as the first all black tank unit to see combat. Like the better-known Tuskegee Airmen, they proved they were as competent as any soldier in the U.S. military. Over the course of 183 days on the front, the 761st helped liberate more than 30 towns under Nazi control. Collectively they were awarded 11 Silver Stars, 70 Bronze Stars, 250 Purple Hearts, and a Medal of Honor. And more than 30 years after coming home, the 761st was finally recognized with the prestigious Presidential Unit Citation.

Through the stories of a select group of surviving veterans, FIRST TO FIGHT examines the history of the battalion--how they came to be; the racism they faced; their battles to be allowed to fight; and courageous service in the European Theater. The program also examines the larger issue of how the U.S. military has evolved from a segregated to an integrated institution.


Part 1


Part 2


The story of blacks fighting for the United States of America in WWII is a saga both glorious and shameful. This moving documentary from THE HISTORY CHANNEL® pays tribute to the valor and sacrifice of African-American soldiers while shedding light on the discrimination and disregard that at times proved more threatening than the rigors of battle.

1.2 million African-Americans served in World War II, and although largely forgotten by history, nearly 2,000 of them stormed the beaches of Normandy. For the first time ever, seven of these forgotten heroes tell their stories. Through dramatic recreations and in-depth interviews, we will discover the African-American contribution to the Normandy Invasion.

On that deadly DISTANT SHORE, only the bullets were color blind. This DVD offers history at its most eye-opening.

Alcan Highway

Part 1

Alcan Highway part 1

Part 2

Alcan Highway part 2

Modern Marvels

Stretching from Dawson Creek in Canada to Alaska, the Alcan Highway is one of the most picturesque roads in North America. But the story of this fifteen hundred mile plus road is one rooted in war and hardship. Built during World War II, the Alcan Highway is one of the major engineering feats of the twentieth century. Over ten thousand American soldiers built the highway, of which almost four thousand were African-American. The African-American soldiers faced the trials and tribulations that the white soldiers faced, but had to contend with the racism and segregation of the era that mandated their isolation and relegated to them inferior tools and supplies. The Alcan Highway is the story of the triumphant effort of these soldiers. The Alcan Highway would be useful for classes on American History, African-American History, Military History, Geography and Science and Technology. It is appropriate for middle school and high school.

Honor Deferred

Honor Deferred part 1

Honor Deferred part 2

HONOR DEFERRED is the story of seven men worthy of the Medal of Honor for their valor during WWII, but who received their medals only recently, after six had already died. More than a million African-Americans served within the army's segregated ranks. Despite their bravery and courage, not one of the 432 Medal of Honor awards went to a black soldier. Was the army racist? Did African-Americans receive appropriate training? The program explores these issues and more in breathtaking recreations as we document the stories of the Congressional Medal of Honor winners. And watch as President Clinton presented the medals to Vernon Baker--the last living recipient--and the proud family members of the other six.

Among the dramatic real-life stories in HONOR DEFERRED are these:

* During fighting in Europe, Lieutenant John Fox found himself completely
surrounded by German forces. He called for U.S. artillery to be fired
directly on his position, dooming himself to death but taking more than
100 German soldiers with him.

* Private George Watson's cargo ship came under unexpected fire by the
Japanese in New Guinea and sank, stranding more than 150 soldiers, many
of whom couldn't swim, in the deep waters. Watson helped carry dozens of
men to safety before he himself drowned from sheer exhaustion.

* Sergeant Edward Carter was shot several times by German soldiers while
crossing hundreds of yards of wide-open land in the Rhineland. Despite
being shot, Carter managed to capture two German soldiers, who he
brought back to his unit, where they provided valuable information that
allowed U.S. forces to advance.

* Lieutenant Charles Thomas's vehicle was hit with artillery fire on a
scouting mission and badly damaged. Thomas, refused to evacuate the area
until he was sure the other vehicles in his unit could return fire. He
was killed, but his efforts saved the lives of many others.

* After performing a valuable scouting mission, Private Willie James was
shot and killed trying to rescue his commander from German sniper fire.

* In France, Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers pressed on for three days on a
leg injured by a land mine and badly infected. He refused orders to
return to an aid station, and died covering the escape of others in his
tank unit in France.

* Vernon Baker is the only black soldier still alive today to receive the
award for service in World War II. After his commander abandoned the
unit, Baker assumed command and refused to fall back. He completed an
impossible mission, and bears sole responsibility for continuing to
engage the enemy.

Monday, April 7, 2008

James Beckwourth

James Pierson Beckwourth (April 6, 1798 or 1800, Frederick County, Virginia - October 29, 1866, Denver) (a.k.a. Jim Beckworth, James P. Beckwith)

James Pierson Beckwourth was born in Virginia in 1798 to Sir Jennings Beckwith, a descendant of Irish and English nobility, and an African-American mulatto woman about whom little is known.

His life is best known from the book The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth from 1856, which was rejected by early historians of the Old West as being ridiculous campfire lore, but has been rehabilitated since as not reliable in details, but a valuable source of social history. The civil rights movement discovered Beckwourth as an early afro-american pioneer and he is subsequently named a role model in children's literature and textbooks.

In the American west

Beckwourth spent his life in fur trapping and Western exploration. With his family he moved around 1809 to Missouri. He attended school in St. Louis for four years and learned at a blacksmith's in the city till age 19. In 1824, while living in Missouri, he joined Gen. William Ashley's fur trapping company as a wrangler on his expedition to explore the Rocky Mountains. In the following years Beckwourth became known as a prominent trapper and Indian fighter. He was well known for telling lore about his adventures about fighting Indians and hunting. But not only did he entertain his listeners, on the 1826 rendezvous trapper colleague Caleb Greenwood told the campfire story of Beckwourth being the child of a Crow chief, who has been stolen as a baby by raiding Cheyennes and sold to the whites. This lore was widely believed, as Beckwourth looked and acted native for years.

Beckwourth as Indian warrior, illustration of the first editionLater that year he got caught by Crow Indians while trapping in the dangerous border county between the areas of Crow, Cheyennes and Blackfoots. They recognised him and as they knew the story of his Crow ancestry he was admitted to the nation and immediately married to the daughter of a chief. For the next eight to nine years he lived with the Crows, rising in their hierarchy, becoming a warrior, a chief, a leader of the Dog clan and finally according to his own record the highest ranking war chief of the Crow Nation. He still went trapping, but did not sell his furs and that of his nation to his former partners of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company but made business with the competing American Fur Company. And he participated in the raids by his new people. They mostly stole horses from neighboring nations and the occasional white party. Sometimes these raids escalated to warfare, most often with the Blackfoots.

In 1837, when the American Fur Company did not want to renew his contract, he returned to St. Louis and volunteered for the Second Seminole War in Florida. In his own book he claims to have been a soldier and courier, but according to preserved records he was a civilian wagon master in the baggage. From 1838 he was an Indian trader on the Arkansas River, working out of Fort Vasquez, Colorado, near Platteville, Colorado with the Cheyennes. 1840 he moved to the Bent & St. Vrain Company and later the same year he established himself as an independent trader, building the trading post Pueblo together with others. From it the city Pueblo, Colorado developed.

From 1844 he traded on the Old Spanish Trail between the Arkansas River and Mexican California. With the beginning of the Mexican-American war in 1846 he returned to the United States, not without stealing around 1800 Mexican horses and bringing them as spoils of war. In the war he was a courier with the US Army and participated in suppressing the Taos Revolt, where his former employer Charles Bent as interims governor of New Mexico was slain.

1848 saw him back in California, in the Gold Rush he opened a store at Sonoma, he sold quickly, going to Sacramento living as a professional card player. In 1850 he discovered Beckwourth Pass, the lowest mountain pass through the Sierra Nevada and in the following year he established Beckwourth Trail, a road through the mountains. It began near Pyramid Lake and the Truckee Meadows east of the mountains, climbed to his pass and on a ridge between two forks of Feather River down to the gold fields of northern California at Marysville. The road should spare the settlers and gold seekers about 150 miles and several steep slopes, such as Donner Pass. It was supposed to be paid by the business communities of the gold towns in California, but when Beckwourth tried to collect his payment in 1851, Marysville suffered from two huge fires and was unable to pay.

Beckwourth eventually began ranching in the Sierra. His ranch, trading post and hotel in today's Sierra Valley later became Beckwourth, California. In the winter of 54/55 Thomas D. Bonner a corrupt Justice of the peace stayed in the hotel, where Beckwourth told him the story of his life. Bonner took it down, edited it the following year and offered the book to Harper & Brothers in New York, where The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth came out in 1856. According to the contract, Beckwourth was entitled to one half of the proceeds, but never got anything from Bonner. His stay in California can be traced until 1858, he returned to Missouri in 1859 and settled later that year in Denver, Colorado. He lived as store keeper and was appointed local agent for Indian affairs by the city council. In 1864 Beckwourth was forced by John M. Chivington of the Third Colorado Volunteers to act as a scout for a campaign against the Cheyenne and Arapaho, that led to the Sand Creek Massacre.

The Cheyennes interdicted him from further business with them as a result of the massacre, and he returned to trapping, well in his 60s. He was employed by the army as a scout in Fort Laramie and Fort Phil Kearny in 1866. While guiding a military column to a Crow Tribe in Montana, he complained of severe headaches and suffering nosebleeds (most probably a severe case of hypertension). Beckworth returned to the Crow village where he died on October 29, 1866. The founder of the "Rocky Mountain News", William Byers, used the death of Beckworth to publish a circulation-boosting, baseless yarn stating that the Crow had poisoned Beckworth. The falsehood is repeated to this day.

Beckwourth and his book

Later in his life, Beckwourth recounted an astonishing life history to Thomas D. Bonner, who produced the book The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth: Mountaineer, Scout, Pioneer and Chief of the Crow Nation. Beckwourth's language and style were as notable as the reported adventures. Some material in the book provide historical information on the role of alcohol in the US Government, how occupations effect the occupied, our historical relationship to diseases, wildlife, and the environment, as well as reports dealing with massacres and war.

Beckwourth Pass, California

Beckwourth Pass, named in honor of James Beckwourth, is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Plumas County, California. State Route 70 crosses the Sierras at an elevation of 1,591 m (5,221 ft.), making it one of the lowest crossings of the Sierra Nevadas in California. It is also the route that the Union Pacific Railroad (former Western Pacific Railroad) used to cross the Sierra's along their Feather River route. The pass is located east of Portola, California.

In 1851, Beckwourth, following an Indian trail, discovered a low elevation pass over the Sierra Nevada mountains into California. He improved what became known as the Beckwourth Trail through Plumas, Butte and Yuba counties. In August, 1851, he led the first intact wagon train into the burgeoning Gold Rush city of Marysville, California, named after Mary Murphy, a survivor of the Donner Party in the winter of 1846-47. Beckwourth demanded payment for improving the trail, claiming he had an agreement with the city and its merchants. When the city failed to pay him, he had no standing as a dark-skinned man in a California court to sue for damages. An estimated 10,000 people used the trail to enter Marysville in the following decade. In 1996, at the urging of promoters of Beckwourth Frontier Days, a living history festival, the city of Marysville's largest park was renamed Beckwourth Riverfront Park in recognition of the debt owed by the city and Beckwourth's significance to the growth of the city.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Afrikan World Civlization

by Dr. Kwaku

Afrikan World Civlization part 1

Afrikan World Civlization part 1

Afrikan World Civlization part 2

Afrikan World Civlization part 2

Afrikan World Civlization part 3

Afrikan World Civlization part 3

Afrikans are responsible for the creation of world civilizations and Dr. Kwaku takes you to the far reaches of the globe to show you the creative genius of the master architects, authors, doctors and more. Narrated by Dr. Kwaku.