Honoring Black History

February 23, 2014

The Boston Globe

William "Smitty" Smith will kick off the Local Luminaries series at the Goodnow Library in his hometown of Sudbury on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Smith, the founding executive director of the National Center for Race Amity at Wheelock College in Boston, will share behind-the-scenes information and excerpts from his 57-minute documentary, "The Invisible Soldiers: Unheard Voices," in honor of Black History Month.

Broadcast nationally on PBS in 2000, the film describes the contributions and sacrifices of servicemen and women of African-American, Asian-American, and Native American descent during World War II. It was named Best Documentary Film by the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame that year.

Smith, the film's producer and director, said the documentary continues to be shown because little else has been done on the subject. Interview subjects include two former US senators, Massachusetts Republican Edward Brooke and Daniel Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii, who were combat veterans, and D-Day hero Sergeant Waverly Woodson Jr., a young medic who pulled drowning soldiers to safety on Normandy Beach.

Smith said the documentary was inspired by the absence of "black or brown faces" in the 1998 epic war film "Saving Private Ryan," directed by Steven Spielberg, "which perpetuates the misconception that minority groups weren't there.

"My hope is always that people will gain a new respect and understanding that America has been built by the contributions of everyone, not just the predominant groups the media has presented to us heretofore," he added. "Minority men and women served under extraordinarily complex and oppressive conditions, but still with valor."

The Local Luminaries series, part of the ongoing celebrations marking Sudbury's 375th birthday, spotlights 17 local residents discussing a wide variety of topics through May 3. For the complete list of the free presentations, call 978-443-1035 or visit www.goodnowlibrary.org.

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