Today is the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, the beginning of the end of World War II. Few of the men of I interviewed for my book "Forgotten" are still with us, but Henry Parham of Pittsburgh, 96, of Pittsburgh, is one of them. On May 7, 2013, the French Embassy in Washington, DC, awarded him the Legion of Honor for his service on that very long day. His war story begins in Dec. 1942, when the draft letter came in the mail. “They got me,” he said. Parham's reluctance to serve wasn’t rooted in the extreme difficulties of serving in a racist Jim Crow army where he knew he would be treated as less than a man. He didn't lack patriotism. His reasons were more practical. He had left a sleepy corner of rural Virginia where mostly everyone he knew worked as a sharecropper. He wanted something better, and was happy to land a steady job as a porter at a bus station in Richmond, Va., where he was earning a sum that provided, for the first time in his 21 years, a dose of security. Yet he boarded a train bound for a new Army training camp in Tennessee, and trained to fly giant balloons. That secret mission would take him across the sea to a 5-mile-long patch of sand called Omaha Beach. There, Parham would be tested as never before. You can read more about him and the men of D-Day's only African-American combat unit in my book and here.
Good news! WWII Navy hero Carl Clark, 100, will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Mr. Clark helped saved his ship and many shipmates after a Japanese kamikaze attack but was denied proper recognition. Like Waverly Woodson, the Army Medal of Honor nominee I have written about extensively on this page, Mr. Clark was a victim of the US military's policy of denying top honors to African Americans. He finally got a Commendation Medal-- and a thank you -- in 2012. I'll always be thankful to Ricki Stevenson, Robin Bates and Constance Bryan for bringing us together last March for a talk at UC Berkeley. Dapper in his Navy uniform -- it still fit him perfectly -- he was still going strong and was a compelling speaker. He also wrote a memoir. Click here to read more about Mr. Clark.
Bookwitty and journalist Olivia Snaidje featured FORGOTTEN: The Untold Story of D'Day's Black Heroes for Black History Month, and an interview with Linda Hervieux. Smaidje writes: "The fruit of nearly six years of research, Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes is a compelling history of an all-black battalion and its men who went unrecognized until now. It is also a frank account of 'a white woman from Massachusetts' educating herself about the African American experience. And it is above all, the sobering story of the United States, the "Jim Crow" laws that enforced segregation from the 1880s into the 1960s, and a reminder of the shocking racism that permeated the lives of African Americans at the time; a reality unresolved today." Click here to read the interview.
Thanks to Hugh Muir and the Guardian for a prominent mention of Forgotten: The Untold Story of D'Day's Black Heroes. Muir recounts the extraordinary treatment extended to African-American soldiers in wartime Britain. After the Brexit vote, hate crimes surged in Britain. He writes, "At times more tense and fearful in our history we have been more willing to show kindness to people of difference. We have been better than this." Click here to read his column.
The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion spent a brief, but blissful, time in the villages ringing Pontypool in southern Wales. Here, the men were welcomed as friends. Jessie and Godfrey Prior family took in homesick GI WIlson Monk, who became a surrogate son. Members of the Prior family helped in the research for Forgotten and several attended Linda's talk at the Pontypool Museum on Dec. 10, 2016. It was a great day!
Welsh historian Neil Sinclair introduced Linda's talk on Dec. 8 in the swank cafe at Octavo Books in Cardiff, Wales. Sinclair has written about the history of this area, Tiger Bay, which once played host to seamen from around the world. Many of them were men of color who settled in this friendly, unusually diverse corner of Wales. Traces of that history are all but lost, sadly. Urban renewal has made the docks a center of restaurants and bars.
It was a full house at Daunt Books Hampstead for the UK launch party for FORGOTTEN! Friends, history buff and Daunt regulars turned out in numbers for a reading, question + answer, and tapas home-made by Linda's friends Dani and Max. It was a great night. Thanks to the fabulous team at Daunt for hosting, and everyone who came out!
In the shadow of the Washington Monument, the National African American Museum of History & Culture is a stunning addition to the National Mall in Washington, DC. Thanks to an invitation from director Lonnie Bunch, Linda was thrilled to speak there on Nov. 9. Even better, the journalist and author Wil Haygood ("The Butler," "Showdown") moderated a program delving into the issues in FORGOTTEN: Jim Crow America, segregation, the systematic mistreatment of African Americans before and after WW2. Many thanks to Will and everyone who turned out the day after a very long and grueling election night!