I may have posted on D-Day in the past…I’m not quite sure. It doesn’t really matter, because the event is still important.
On June 6, 1944, the Allied forces of Great Britain, Canada, free France and the United States began one of the biggest amphibious assaults in American history. In invading the Normandy coast of France, the Allies would begin the first real strike into the heart of German-occupied Western Europe.
The invasion was not flawless. Many of the airborne troops missed their drop points as they parachuted behind enemy lines. German defenses, especially in the American zone, were woefully underestimated. Furthermore, the Allies would be pinned to the peninsula until mid-July, when Cherbourg was secured and a clear path made through to Paris.
Nevertheless, the Normandy invasion was a turning point in world history. For the first time since Napoleon, a hegemonic power invaded another not to conquer, but to liberate. It forced Germany into a two-front war it could not sustain. Finally, it gave the Allies some serious light at the end of a dark, blood-soaked tunnel.
I’ve probably posted it before, but here is the landing scene from Saving Private Ryan. Though not entirely accurate, it gives as sense of the horror and gravity of that fateful June morning.
Video for the Classroom: “Joe Louis was a Fighting Man”
It’s almost criminal that over a week has passed in Black History Month, and the Neighborhood has no posts about important African Americans.
Today’s post is a more fun aspect of history, but important nonetheless. It can be argued that more musical tributes were written about Joe Louis than any other athlete in American history–a Black athlete accepted by both whites and Blacks.
The longest-running heavyweight boxing champion in history, from 1937 to 1949, Joe Louis was among the greatest and most influential athletes of the 20th century. A hero to African Americans beaten down by the Depression, discrimination and Klan violence, Louis would also become the first Black athlete widely accepted by whites as well.
The culminating moment of Louis’ career was the second fight between Louis and Max Schmeling on June 22, 1938. Schmeling, a symbol of Nazi Germany, was immediately cast as the villain (despite his own antipathy towards Hitler). Louis, incredibly, became an American hero overnight.
His defeat of Schmeling in two minutes and four seconds sent Black neighborhoods across America into wild celebrations, and create something of a mythic hero in Joe Louis. It would be a heroism belied by the still-rampant discrimination in American life through World War II.
Today’s video is a montage of Joe’s greatest hits. Yet it’s the audio that’s most important. Listen to the great blues ballad “Joe Louis was a Fighting Man” and you can get a glimpse of how much Joe Louis meant to people.
It’s also a pretty good tune. Enjoy.
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Tagged as African American, American History, Black, Black History, Black History Month, Boxing, Civil Rights, Commentary, Education, Germany, History, Joe Louis, Louis, Max Schmeling, Music, Nazi Germany, Opinion, Social studies, Sports, Teachers, Teaching, U.S. History, United State, United States, World War II