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Well, the 92nd Division, the Buffalo soldiers, they did fight in Tuscany against the Nazis. The massacre

in St. Anna di Stazzema on August 12, 1944 where the Nazis’ 16th Division of the

SS slaughtered 560 innocent Italian civilians really happened.



Spike Lee and Miracle at St Anna

New Film Interview by Kam Williams


Spike Lee is back with his first full-length feature since Inside Man (2006), the NYC crime caper which netted over $100 million at the box office alone. That picture’s commercial success enabled the Oscar-nominated director to interest Disney in backing Miracle at St. Anna, a big budget WWII saga shot mostly in Europe.

The movie’s script, adapted by James McBride from his own historical novel, is a fact-based adventure revolving around the heroic exploits of four black GIs (Derek Luke, Laz Alonso, Michael Ealy and Omar Benson Miller) who became separated from their unit while fighting behind enemy lines in Italy in 1944. Here, Spike talks not only about his new film, but about the prospect of his beloved Knicks during the upcoming NBA season, and about his feud with Clint Eastwood.

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KW: What interested you in making Miracle at St. Anna?

SL: Reading the original source, James McBride’s novel. The man’s a great writer. That’s what drew me to the project. 

KW: How was it filming on location in Europe for the first time?

SL: It was a great experience. Practically this whole film was shot in Italy. I’d love to shoot over there again soon, maybe not in Italy, but somewhere else.  

KW: What was the most challenging aspect of shooting?

SL: Tuscany is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and you have to hike that equipment up the mountains and hills to get those shots. But that’s just part of the job. I would love to make another movie there. The light there is wonderful. You can not get that on the back lot in a studio. The small village the soldiers stumble into is 800 years-old. Where we able to shoot at a lot of locations where actual incidents took place, like the massacre. I think it adds something for both the cast and crew when they know they’re standing on the same exact spots as the scenes they’re recreating.

KW: How was it collaborating with James McBride, who also wrote the script?

SL: It was a great working experience, and I think that he would say the same thing. We had disagreements, but we respected each other’s opinion, since we both wanted what was best for the film.

KW: Mr. McBride says Miracle at St. Anna is fiction inspired by real events. Can you tell me some of things in the story that are real? 

SL: Well, the 92nd Division, the Buffalo soldiers, they did fight in Tuscany against the Nazis. The massacre in St. Anna di Stazzema on August 12, 1944 where the Nazis’ 16th Division of the SS slaughtered 560 innocent Italian civilians really happened. The statue head, that’s real, too.

KW: Would you say Miracle at St. Anna is more than a war movie?

SL: This film is definitely more than just a war film. Of all the movies I’ve done, this one, by far, has more discussions of religion, faith and hope. That reflects James McBride‘s novel which is all about hope, faith, prayer, belief and God.

KW: What do you expect people to take away from this movie?

SL: I’m not in the business of telling audiences what to think. I respect their intelligence, and they’ll make up their on minds about what they think.

KW: During World War II, America’s armed forces were segregated and the Department of Defense directed embedded cameramen not to film African-American GI’s in action. And no blacks were subsequently featured in any of the early war films from the Forties and Fifties, and none were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery in World War II until Bill Clinton belatedly corrected the glaring oversight during his presidency. Was your purpose in making this movie an attempt to rectify the deliberately whitewashed version of history? 

SL: Well, that was part of it, because at the time these black men were fighting for the United States, the Army was still segregated. And they not only fought the Fascists and the Nazis for the Red, White and Blue, but they had to fight Jim Crow down South once they got home. But the whole movie isn’t about the Buffalo Soldiers. We spent a great deal of time with the Italians, too, and the story is framed within a murder mystery. But nonetheless, there’s been a great omission here, and the surviving Buffalo Soldiers I’ve spoken to are elated that we’re doing this film.

KW: NYU History Professor Yvonne Latty urged Clint Eastwood, even before he began production on Flags of Our Fathers, to include black soldiers in the film since somewhere between 700 and 900 African-Americans had fought on Iwo Jima. She even sent him a copy of her book about these forever unsung heroes, but to no avail. Is this the basis of your ongoing beef about the movie with Eastwood?

SL: I’m glad you’re saying that, because it needs to be known that there were people saying stuff to Clint even before he shot the film. So, this stuff is on record. I was not the first one to voice those sentiments.

KW: As far as I can tell, you’re the only film director who individually credits every musician who plays on his soundtrack. Why do you do that?

SL: Because I grew up in a jazz household, my father [Bill Lee] is a great jazz bassist, and I value the contributions of the musicians and the composer. My father did the scores for my movies in film school, and for She’s Gotta Have It, School Daze, Do the Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues. And Terence Blanchard did all the scores for my films since. Musicians are great artists. In my opinion, I think they’re the greatest artists. If somebody gets credit for pushing a dolly or holding a boom mike, why should someone who’s playing the violin, the bass, the trumpet, the French horn or the oboe not get credit too? They contributed as much as anybody else. That’s why I give musicians credit in my films.   

KW: I appreciate that, being from St. Albans, which was an enclave of black musicians when I was growing up in the Fifties and Sixties. 

SL: Yeah, I know it had James Brown… Count Basie… and my man Milt Hinton.

KW: Count Basie lived up the block. We used to swim in his pool as kids. You know who else lived in St. Albans? Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Oliver Nelson, Lena Horne and Illinois Jacquet to name a few off the top of my head. But it was first integrated by Jackie Robinson, along with baseball. Speaking of sports, how do you think the Knicks will do this season?

SL: Well, I hope we have a winning record. [Laughs] Notice I said “hope.”

KW: Where in Brooklyn did you grow up?

SL: We were the first family to move into Cobble Hill, which at the time was primarily an Italian neighborhood. Cobble Hill is right by the Brooklyn docks, and almost all the people that worked the docks were Italian back then when the waterfront was alive and thriving. Funny thing, we got called “nigger” a couple of times, when we first moved in, until they saw that there weren’t anymore black families moving in behind us. We never had any more incidents after that. 

KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?

SL: Yeah, very happy.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

SL: Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama.

KW: Who are you supporting for president?

SL: Barack Obama!

KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?

SL: Everybody’s afraid.

KW: What has been your biggest disappointment?

SL: My biggest disappoint so far was when I couldn’t get that Jackie Robinson film made. And then, when I couldn’t get the Joe Louis-Max Schmeling film made, or the James Brown bio-pic.

KW: Do you have a bio-pic in the works?

SL: Yes I do. I just optioned the right to the autobiography of a black physicist and professor at the University of Connecticut named Ronald Mallett called The Time Traveler. He’s drawn up the blueprint for a time machine.   

KW: Is there a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would

SL: Not really.

KW: The Music Maven Heather Covington question: What’s music are you listening to nowadays? 

SL: Right now I’m listening to Raphael Saadiq’s new album, The Way I see It, and to Terence Blanchard’s score to Miracle at St. Anna.

KW: How do you want to be remembered?

SL: For my body of work.

KW: Thanks for the time, Spike.

SL: Alright man, thanks.

posted 5 October 2008

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The President’s Agenda and the African American Community—November 2011

Note: One should take a careful look at the phrasing in the above presidential appeal to the "African America Community." It is not an "African American Agenda" by the President but a "President's Agenda." It is always when it comes to black Americans about Mr. Obama than about black American communities.RL

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#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
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#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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