By Susan Tomai, Founder
I had the good fortune last week to attend a book reading at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington for Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day's Black Heroes, at Home and at War by Linda Hervieux.
Hervieux’s book chronicles the experiences of The 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the all-black group of fighting men who landed at Normandy Beach on D-Day. Hervieux is an excellent speaker and storyteller; we sat in The Oprah Winfrey Theater hanging on her every word about the men’s experiences in battle and back home. Hervieux introduced us to their families and told their personal stories – some that their family members didn’t even know, because many vets returned home and kept their stories to themselves. I won’t forget the 82-year-old man who talked about how he and his five brothers joined the military to get off the family farm in Indiana for a better life. Or the retired female African American officer who, after serving 25 years as a pilot, thanked the families of the men who paved the way and enabled her to be in the military.
Then the audience question-and-answer period came, and unfortunately, many of the questions weren’t audible. But I was impressed by the way Hervieux handled the situation; she offered a synopsis of each question to the audience before launching into her honest and spirited responses. This is a great tip for all speakers – if there’s any doubt that the audience is hearing the question, repeat it.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture isn’t easy to get into at the moment – many days are sold out months in advance. So I’m very glad I was able to experience this beautiful new addition to America’s cultural landscape, and to hear stories every American needs to hear.