A Night at the Movies: Horror Noire Screening with AML

This week AML hosted a screening of the documentary Horror Noire featuring Professor Robin R Means Coleman whose book of the same title inspired the film. Horror Noire details the history and impact of Black American representation and involvement in the horror movie genre. Actors, directors, writers, and academics spoke in the film about how blackness functions in horror films, in particular in response to racism throughout American history. The film included clips of famous Black horror films including Blacula, Get Out, and Candyman to showcase how different eras of horror films represented blackness. After the viewing, Professor Means Coleman answered questions from the audience and continued the discussions that were raised during the film.

While not a scholar of film (as well as a bona fide scaredy-cat who watches most horror films with my eyes shut) I found this documentary extremely entertaining. I was most interested to learn about how Black representation in horror films evolved from the 1940s through to present day. Speakers in the film discussed how early representations of blackness in horror relied on racist, negative depictions of Black Americans from the era of enslavement and Jim Crowe laws in the United States. A turning point came in the 1960s and 1970s when more films featuring Black actors as monster and victim were made. Later in the 1990s and 2000s horror films finally depicted Black characters as the hero of the film who is able to survive or perhaps even defeat the monster.

One aspect of the film that was interesting to see was how horror could be used to represent political issues in the United States related to race. These films could reflect the real-life horrors that Black Americans have faced in a way that was entertaining and offered an escape from the news stories of how people of color in the US were being treated. In this way, the horror genre could be used as an outlet for Black creators of film and actors to present those real-life fears in a method that is separate from reality.

After the viewing, Professor Means Coleman answered audience questions about the horror genre, Black representation, and what the future of horror noire may be. Audiences were particularly interested in the films of Jordan Peele, the first Black man to win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his 2017 horror film Get Out. As one of the most recent successes in Black horror filmmaking, Peele’s movies had fans in the audience who were interested in discussion how he uses nuance and contemporary discussions around race, technology, and politics to develop his narratives.

Overall, the film screening was a great event. Horror Noire was both entertaining and informative. To have Professor Means Coleman available to answer our questions and further our understanding of the film was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about this genre and where it might be headed in the future.

Horror Noire is produced by Shudder Films. You can find it on Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video. The book that inspired the film, also called Horror Noire, by Professor Robin R Means Coleman is available on Amazon or at the American Library.

Post by American Scholar Lauren Cortese

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We’ll Meet Again: A Scholar’s Farewell

Well, here it is, my last month as a UEA American Library Scholar. It’s hard to believe the time has flown by so quickly and incredible to contemplate some of the historic events we’ve seen together, including a global pandemic, the election of America’s forty-sixth president and the death of Queen Elizabeth II, who as a young woman served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the Second World War. But then, working together through good times and bad is what the special relationship between the United States and Britain has always been about, hasn’t it? The American Library and a PhD program in creative and critical writing at the University of East Anglia were an unknown flight path a decade ago, when I was immersing myself in all things noir. I watched a lot of film noir back then, so much so that I felt like I was living in black and white in my tiny studio on Manhattan’s East Side. Some of the movies I watched from that period were not about crime, but about war, and in one I heard (for the first time, I think) Vera Lynn’s unforgettable wartime anthem, We’ll Meet Again. It’s possible my dad sang it to us when were kids—he was known to belt out classics like You’re in the Army Now and Over There and was also a lover of big band music like that arranged by bandleader and US Army Air Forces Captain Glenn Miller, who died in 1944 when the plane that was transporting him to a concert for Allied troops in liberated Paris was lost over the English Channel.

My father, Flight Officer Eugene L. Solomon, a B-17 pilot with the 384th Bomb Group, himself spent some of his leave in Paris, as evidenced by his well thumbed American Red Cross map of that city. Fortunately, he never had to use the other map he carried, a silk escape map. After flying the last strategic bombing mission in Europe on April 25, 1945, the group was chosen to move to Germany as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe and initially deployed to Istres, France in June. Before that, the crew spent VE Day in London, where the crowd was ‘packed like sardines’ and my father saw King George, Queen Elizabeth, (then) Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Flight Officer Eugene Solomon, the author’s father, top row, second from left. The crew (not shown in listed order): Pilot Lawrence E. Thurston, Co-Pilot Eugene Leonard Solomon, Navigator Theodore T. Gore, Togglier (bombardier) Robert Lee Wilkinson, Radio Operator/Gunner William O. King, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Oliver T. Larson, Ball Turret Gunner Elias S. Huron, Waist (Flexible) Gunner James Lindsay, Tail Gunner Ralph Cauthen. Photo courtesy of Christopher Wilkinson, the son of togglier Robert Lee Wilkinson, bottom row at left.
American Red Cross Map of Paris for service members
Silk escape map

According to Walter E. Owens’ As Briefed: A Family History of the 384th Bombardment Group, the 384th transported Allied troops to Germany and American soldiers to Casablanca for return to the US, among other missions. The latter was known as Project Green, which operated from June to September 1945 and was, according to the 384th Bomb Group’s website, ‘a key part of the “Home Bound Task Force” that returned combat troops to the USA following cessation of hostilities in the ETO. Troops were ferried from various European locations to Port Lyautey, Morocco, there to await transport home.’ 

Dad’s crew helped redeploy the 101st and the 82nd Airborne and medical personnel from field hospitals that weren’t needed anymore, some of whom were intended to be sent to the Pacific. They repatriated French citizens who had fled France and were living in North Africa, including the wife, two daughters and son of General de Gaulle’s aide de camp. Dad told us in a family interview I conducted that the crew took the kids ‘up front and let them sit in the seat and “fly the plane”’. The crew also repatriated Greek citizens who had been brought to Germany to be slave laborers. On one of their missions, they flew to an air station outside of Munich to deliver supplies and witnessed the horrifying aftermath of Dachau concentration camp. 

Another operation my father participated in was photographic mapping duty, or as he put it: ‘they photographed the entirety of Europe at 20,000 feet.’ Except, that is, for the USSR, because ‘the Russians wouldn’t let us.’ The 384th BG was inactivated in France in February of 1946; however, my father was on active duty in Europe through July, when he returned to the US.[1] In Istres, every flying officer had to get a job in a ground position, so my dad became an assistant intelligence officer, for which he had to go to intelligence school in Wiesbaden (across from the IG Farben works, a subsidiary of which produced the Zyklon B gas used in the death camps). He was also the information education officer for the Biarritz campus of the US Army University, a program that brought professors from America and elsewhere to conduct classes for servicemen and women stationed in Europe. Flight Officer Solomon returned to the US on July 17, 1946, and was relieved from active duty on September 11, 1946.

It would take many more paragraphs to list the activities I was privileged to participate in as a UEA American Scholar over the last two years. Highlights include the honor of laying the wreaths on behalf of the Second Air Division for Remembrance Week in 2021 and on Memorial Day this year at the Cambridge American Cemetery; attending the Remembrance service and Evensong at the American Chapel in St. Paul’s Cathedral; staffing the long-anticipated Library launch with colleagues in May and seeing our 2nd AD veterans movingly address us from across the pond through the magic of Zoom (yes, I cried); organizing a resoundingly successful talk by my academic supervisor at UEA, crime fiction writer and scholar Henry Sutton; engaging with the public as an ambassador of American literature and culture; and furthering the Library’s memorial mission by educating visitors about the Second Air Division’s history in East Anglia.

The US Army Air Forces monument at Cambridge American Cemetery
A B-17 flyover at Cambridge American Cemetery
The author, right, with Professor Henry Sutton at his April talk

The American Library and the Second Air Division Memorial Trust have been an invaluable resource, both in my family research as well as in supporting work on my PhD thesis with the UEA American Library Scholarship. My boundless gratitude goes out to Trust Chairman Richard Middleton, Professor Jaqueline Fear-Segal and the other Trust Governors, their American counterparts in the Heritage League, the veterans of the 2nd AD and their families, Trust Librarian Orla Kennelly, fellow Scholars and library colleagues, the Millennium Library and Norfolk County Council Library system, the Norfolk Record Office and the East Anglian community.

And here’s to you, our Scholars’ Blog readers, who commented on and shared my musings on a range of American topics.

Thank you all—but let’s not say goodbye, rather: We’ll Meet Again

—post by Suzanne Solomon


[1] His service record indicates that when he was discharged, he was attached to the 368th Bombardment Squad, 306th Bomb Group, 1st AD, which ‘engaged in special photographic mapping duty in western Europe and North Africa.’ However, there may still be more to discover about his Occupation service.

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Summertime Favourite Throughout History

As we continue to slog through the warm summer weather, I got to thinking about my recent trip back to the US and the news coverage of President Joe Biden’s well known favourite snack all year long: ice cream. Biden is such a fan that an Ohio based ice cream company developed a flavour in his honour using all of his favourite flavours and toppings.

But Biden isn’t the first US President to be known for his love of this cool sweet treat. The first record of ice cream in the United States was from 1744 in a letter written by a guest of the Governor of Maryland (which happens to be my home state). George Washington was noted to have spent at least $200 USD in one summer on ice cream, which comes out to about $5000 USD today! Thomas Jefferson had his own preferred ice cream recipe and first lady Dolly Madison served strawberry ice cream at the second inauguration of her husband James Madison.

American’s love of ice cream continued into the 19th century with the invention of the soda fountain and ice cream sundae. The 1904 World’s Fair introduced the ice cream cone for enjoying a scoop on the go, which was then further mobilised with the first ice cream trucks in the 1920s out of Youngstown, Ohio. During the Prohibition Years when alcohol was illegal, some major beer breweries such as Anheuser-Busch and Yuengling began to produce ice cream to maintain their profits.

Ice cream then became such an integral part of American life that it served as a source of comfort. During World War I, ice cream was sent to troops stationed overseas not only as a food that was dense in calories and fat to maintain nutrition, but as a reminder of home. When the Great Depression struck, ice cream became a morale boosting treat as it was still relatively low priced and offered a luxury among simpler meals.

Once again, in World War II, ice cream played a significant role in improving morale for soldiers. It is reported that bomber crews would make ice cream while carrying out missions. They could put together the ingredients for ice cream in a bucket, strap the bucket to the rear gunners compartment, and while flying the mixture would be blended by the vibrations and turbulence of the aircraft and frozen at the high altitude. Then, in 1945, the US Navy created an ice cream barge that towed around the South Pacific to distribute ice cream to the troops. The US Army took a different approach with miniature ice cream factories stationed around the front lines so ice cream could be delivered to foxholes. It seems that ingenuity was a helpful tool serve the troops a small taste of home during harrowing times.

Now as we start to prepare for the cooler autumn weather, don’t forget to take some time to enjoy a treat that has been enjoyed around the world for centuries, but has a special place in the history of our World War II servicemen and servicewomen.

If you’d like to read more on this topic, below are links to the sites I used to research this post:

Post by American Scholar Lauren Cortese

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#WritingTimes

If you’re thinking about attending one of our upcoming #WritingTimes workshops, the free, archive-inspired classes led by UEA tutor Dr. Jake Barrett-Mills, or just want to know more about the craft of creative writing, here are a few suggestions to get started:

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a classic in the field, packed with practical tips, notes on structure, and suggested writing exercises, all related in a lively and anecdotal style.
Crime fiction fans will love Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, in which the queen of suspense shares her secrets of the craft, including pointers on character, setting, and plot development.
This Year You Write Your Novel, from the legendary crime writer Walter Mosley, is the bootcamp of creative writing manuals, providing aspiring writers of any genre with the tools to create a daily writing regimen and produce a first draft of their novel.
In Writing Intersectional Identities, Janelle Adsit and Renee M. Byrd offer a practical guide to writing characters of different social identities, inviting a ‘more explicit discussion of race, class, gender, sexuality and disability in the creative writing workshop.’
For horror fans, Stephen King’s On Writing needs no introduction. King delivers a no-holds-barred memoir of the writing life, along with a ‘toolbox’ to get you started.
Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is both a primer on the craft and a memoir about becoming a writer and teacher. Don’t miss the chapter ‘100 Things About Writing a Novel’.
If these recommendations have inspired you to fire up your laptop or break out your favorite notebook and pen, why not head over to our Eventbrite page and book your place in #WritingTimes?

— post by Suzanne Solomon

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