Historian's Watch List - February 2021

  • Published
  • By Mr. Daniel Pensiero
  • 514th Air Mobility Wing


What the historian is watching this month:

The 514th Air Mobility Wing Historian, Mr. Walter Napier III, shares his historic film choices for the month of February: 

“The 24th” (2020):  This film tells the story of the all-black 24th Infantry Regiment during World War I.  Due to discriminatory policies by the armed forces during the war, limited career fields were available to black soldiers.  Many of them were forced into Pioneer Infantry, a fancy title for laborer (most were never allowed to hold or fire a weapon).  Following the Civil War, the US Army had established four permanent black units.  One of those units was the 24th Infantry.  Despite these permanent units being the most well trained, the Army decided to only use new black recruits for the war effort, and to keep the permanent units in the rear.  The 24th was stationed in Houston, TX, and the local population treated them harshly due to their skin color.  To make matters worse, much of the unit’s core leadership was pulled away to train new recruits.  This film tells the 24th’s story.

78% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Available for rent on Amazon and iTunes.

One Night in Miami (2020): This is the film adaptation of a Broadway play of the same name.  It tells of a fictional evening where Cassius Clay, soon to be renamed Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Malcom X and Sam Cooke all meet in a hotel room following Ali’s title fight with Sonny Liston in 1964.  The four men debate and argue amongst themselves on how to best take part in the ongoing Civil Rights movement.  While the meeting in the film is fictional, many events shown throughout the picture are historical.  Some of these events include the afore mentioned title fight, Malcolm X’s break with the Nation of Islam, and Sam Cooke’s performance of “A Change is Gonna Come” on “The Tonight Show”.

98% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

“Selma” (2014): This 2014 film tells the story of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches in 1965.  One of Dr. Martin Luther King’s most ardent points of contention was that black citizens were denied the right to vote in the South either de jure or de facto.  Without the ability to vote in new leaders, how could African Americans expect any real change?  In the film we see Annie Lee Cooper attempt to register to vote, where she is met by extreme limits and difficulties placed on her by the local authorities.  Meanwhile, Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference decide to organize and challenge the abuses going on in Alabama.  This film not only tells the story of Selma, but does so in a very realistic fashion.  Many real life struggles that Dr. King, his family and his friends went through are portrayed here, humanizing the man while immortalizing the event.

99% on Rotten Tomatoes

Available to stream with Hulu Premium or for rent on Amazon and iTunes

“Malcolm X” (1992): Starring Denzel Washington, this classic movie is based on the “Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley and follows the life of Malcolm from his tender years until his assassination in 1965.  Born Malcolm Little, Malcolm discovers faith while imprisoned, converts to Islam, joins the Nation of Islam and through his speeches and activism help the organization grow.  Malcolm’s passion establishes him as the face of the Nation of Islam, subsequently creating tension with the organization’s founder and a number of its leaders.  An uncompromising leader, a voice for the oppressed and one of the most recognizable names associated with the Civil Rights movement this classic has it all.  Just be sure to allot yourself the three hours and twenty minutes needed to truly enjoy this epic story.

88% on Rotten Tomatoes

Available to stream on HBO Now or rent on Amazon and iTunes.