Michael B. Jordan to Produce a Different Kind of Black Panther Story Next

In the wake of Black Panther’s monster success, Michael B. Jordan has lined up the kind of project that would make any Wakandan proud.

His latest film, The Liberators, for which he’s signed on as a producer, will bring us the story of World War II’s 761st Tank Battalion, a wholly African-American combat unit whose accomplishments on the battlefield helped convince President Harry Truman to desegregate the armed forces.

Lauded as one of the most effective tank battalions of the war, the 761st regiment were also known as “the Black Panthers” and wore a panther head on their unit’s insignia. Their motto: “Come out fighting.”


World War II: The 761st Tank Battalion

Before and during mobilization for World War II, officials in Washington, D.C., debated whether or not African-American soldiers should be used in armored units. Many military men and politicians believed that blacks did not have the brains, quickness or moral stamina to fight in a war.

The armed forces embraced these beliefs even though African Americans had fought with courage and distinction in the Revolutionary War and every other war and conflict ever waged by the United States. They overlooked the fact that four regiments of the 93rd Division had served with the French during World War I and that the French government had awarded the coveted Croix de Guerre to three of the four regiments and to a company of the fourth, as well as to the 1st Battalion, 367th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Division.

Lieutenant General Leslie J. McNair, chief of the U.S. Army ground forces, was the main proponent of allowing African Americans to serve in armored units. He believed his nation could ill afford to exclude such a potentially important source of manpower. The black press, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Congress of Racial Equality also placed increasing pressure on the War Department and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration to allow black soldiers to serve on an equal footing with white soldiers.

In the summer of 1940, Congress passed into law the Selective Training and Service Act, which said, ‘In the selection and training of men under this act, there shall be no discrimination against any person on account of race and color.’ In October, however, the White House issued a statement saying that, while ‘the services of Negroes would be utilized on a fair and equitable basis,’ the policy of segregation in the armed forces would continue.

In March 1941, 98 black enlisted men reported to Fort Knox, Ky., from Fort Custer, Mich., for armored warfare training with the 758th Tank Battalion (light). The pioneer black tankers trained in light tank operations, mechanics and related phases of mechanized warfare, as enlisted men from other Army units joined their ranks.

Nicknamed the “Black Panther Battalion,” the 761st Tank Battalion saw some of the greatest action of the European Theater during World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge. Though the American armed forces were still segregated, these men saw no segregation during combat. ~ Source: American Veterans Center

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