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For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots
By Joy ChildsSentinel Contributing Writer
"Let it be said that the Negro soldier did his duty under the flag, whether that flag protected him or not." This quote written in 1899 by noted Spanish-American historian Edward A. Johnson provides the thematic premise and historical context for the documentary film, "For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots."
From the dawn of U.S. history, African-Americans have risked their lives to create and preserve freedom for their country while attempting to acquire it for themselves. Their long struggle has been as painful as it has been heroic--their sacrifices profound and their enormous contributions largely ignored.
Until now. "For Love of Liberty" finally, and for all time, sets the record straight. The film, ten years in the making and largely self-financed, is hosted by Halle Berry and narrated by Avery Brooks, with an introduction by Colin Powell and choral arrangements by Andrae Crouch.
The powerful four-hour, two-part film premiered on public television stations nationwide in February 2010, and its worldwide debut, was May15th, Armed Forces Day. In case you missed it, now the three-disc collector's edition has been remastered to ensure the sharpest picture possible; it contains 5-1/2 hours of rare film footage, some of which dates back to 1898.
"For Love of Liberty" uses letters, diaries, speeches, journalistic accounts, historical text and military records to document the accomplishments of African American men and women since the earliest days of the republic. Their gripping personal stories paint a deeply moving chronicle of sacrifice and service-from the Revolutionary War, whose first casualty was a Black man, Crispus Attucks, to the current battle against global terrorism.
Much more than a collection of historical facts and figures, "For Love of Liberty" introduces us to the men and women whose lives make up the fabric of this inspiring and often heartbreaking story. Their compelling first-hand accounts are recounted through dramatic, off-camera readings by a who's who of talented entertainers and public figures that were recorded over a period of years during the making of the film including John Amos, Angela Bassett, Roscoe Lee Browne, Chris Cooper, Peter Coyote, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Michael Clarke Duncan, Charles S. Dutton, Robert Duvall, Sam Elliott, Morgan Freeman, James Garner, Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, John Goodman, Louis Gossett, Jr., Isaac Hayes, Ice-T, Kris Kristofferson, Eriq LaSalle, Delroy Lindo, Jesse L. Martin, Alan Rickman, Al Cliff Robertson, Susan Sarandon Donald Sutherland, Robert Townsend, Blair Underwood, Isaiah Washington, Alfre Woodard, JeffreyWright and many others.
"'For Love of Liberty' has the power to forever change perceptions about the vital role African Americans have played during the entire course of U.S. military history," says executive producer Louis Gossett, Jr. "I'm honored to be part of this important and groundbreaking film, and thankful to all my fellow actors who have helped to bring this story to life." (See related story about Gossett on page ___.)
"Our goal is to raise public consciousness about this extraordinary and little-known aspect of our nation's history, and I'm deeply indebted to all those who've supported our commitment to get this story told," says producer, co-writer and director Frank Martin. His diverse production history includes over 200 hours of prime-time television programming as well as material for the Department of Defense, Army, Navy and the White House.
"Throughout the film we look at why, despite rampant injustice, heroic Black men and women fought so valiantly for freedoms they themselves did not enjoy. The theme that echoes across the centuries--the price of liberty--is one that is relevant to all Americans."
Their words reveal an epic saga of perseverance and triumph, which the film brings movingly to life through the innovative use of rare photographs, archival materials, reenactments, personal memorabilia, historical paintings and posters. The film also includes beautiful original footage of hundreds of monuments, battlefields, memorials, and other historic sites shot on location in over 20 states and Europe.
Gospel great Andrae Crouch provides the choral arrangements for an eclectic mix of songs which comprise the "For Love of Liberty" soundtrack. Included are gospel-inspired arrangements of the Celtic classic, "Minstrel Boy"; Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Pie Jesu"; the holiday standard, "O Holy Night"; the WW II classic, "I'll Be Home for Christmas"; Stephen Foster's Civil War era heartbreaker, "Was My Brother in the Battle," and the war-time standard, "We'll Meet Again." Additional music in the film includes Jimi Hendrix's "Machine Gun" and Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit."
The NAACP says: "This thought-provoking piece ... brings the experiences and portrayals of these all but forgotten Americans into vivid focus." The Congressional Black Caucus, Senators John McCain and Carl Levin and most major veterans organizations have endorsed "For Love of Liberty." The film also enjoys vigorous support from all branches of the United States Military, both active duty and retired.
So why not give the gift of black history-as a belated Father's Day gift? or as a graduation gift? or an early back-to-school gift?
To get your copy, go to the film's website at www.forloveofliberty.org.