February marks Black History Month in the United States, so we are proud to celebrate this heritage month and honour African American history at AML. All year we feature a collection of books by African American authors, biographies about African American figures, and non-fiction texts detailing African American history. This includes history dating back to enslavement of Africans in the United States, the end of slavery and beginning of the Civil Rights Movement, and the continued efforts for racial equality as seen in the Black Lives Matter movement today.
This year, we were lucky to host an event that looked at the history of African American service members in WWII stationed right here in Norfolk. UEA graduate of American Studies Joel Young presented a talk titled The Forgotten Chorus which told the story of an African American gospel choir that began in England during WWII. Joel detailed how the chorus began, the prominence they achieved, and the experiences of African American troops in a still segregated military service.
It was great to hear this lesser known history that took place in Norfolk and impacted the lives of so many. These ‘hidden histories’ offer an insight into the experiences of WWII that have not been popularised on the big screen or taught as part of the school curriculum. A highlight of Joel’s talk was the extent of primary documents he was able to find to tell this story. His presentation included many photographs from service records as well as an audio clip of a performance by the choir at Prince Albert Hall.
Please take the time to enjoy Joel’s talk yourself by watching a recording available on YouTube. You can view the recording here.
This post was written by American Scholar Lauren Cortese