The documentary For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots has aired periodically on PBS channels around the nation for the past year. But director Frank Martin also has hopes that his film, which took 10 years to complete, and highlights the various stories of Black men and women heroes and their historical contributions to the U.S. through military service, will soon be familar to all Americans. For Love of Liberty is hosted by Halle Berry and features the voice participation of Bill Cosby, Angela Bassett, Ice-T, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Blair Underwood, Morgan Freeman, Alfre Woodard and many others.
BET.com spoke to Martin about why he made this movie, how he lined up his all-star cast of voice actors and how you can make sure the film is shown at a school or library near you.
What inspired you to make For Love of Liberty?
A young man named Jim Crite found a book at a garage sale called African Americans in the Defense of Their Nation, put out by the Department of Defense when Colin Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jim brought the book to Louis Gossett Jr., and Lou brought it to me. As I was looking through this book I was saying to myself, “Well, I never heard these stories.” And this question formed in my head: Why would someone risk their neck in defense of a nation that treated them worse than second-class citizens?
What do you think motivated Black Americans to fight for a country that didn’t recognize or appreciate them?
That question forms the heart of the film. And the answer to that question is so wonderfully inspirational — it goes to the heart of what it means to be American. And what patriotism and liberty is all about. That’s where the title came from, the answer to your question is For Love of Liberty. In my eyes, these men and women were super patriots because they would do these incredible things in segregated units and then come home and not be recognized for what they did. Yet they did it anyway. They did it for the promise of freedom and liberty — what we all take for granted. I get emotional about it because it’s such an incredible sacrifice that has never been fully acknowledged.
Can you talk a bit about how so many celebrities became involved in the project?
It was a labor of love for everyone who participated. I wrote a lot of letters and a lot of the folks that agreed had a personal connection to the story. Bill Cosby, for example, I knew [that] when Bill Cosby was in the Navy, he was a cook. That’s why I reached out to Bill. Morgan Freeman was in the Air Force. Ice-T was in the Army during the Vietnam era. A great many ... people had a connection to this story in many different ways and that’s why they agreed to do this. I can’t pay Halle Berry what she’s worth for a day, so everyone basically worked for scale.
What do you want audiences to get from your documentary?
These men and women were there and they played a vital role in the defense and ultimate building of our nation. There were Black men in the Revolution in 1812, every conflict that this nation has been involved in. There have been Black men and women shedding their blood in defense of this country and that sacrifice has never been properly acknowledged. That’s the goal of the film.
Tell us more about how we can get For Love of Liberty in a school or library near us.
Our goal is to get this documentary in every school and library in America, so we have a number of educational editions. We have a K-12 edition, a library edition and a university edition. We are sending emails to public libraries and schools. If they order the film at this reduced price, we will give them a complimentary public performance release. Typically that costs anywhere from $300 to $500 to sometimes $1000 dollars, but we’re giving that away because we want these schools and libraries to show it in their classrooms and in their library facilities. We just want to make sure people see the film.
For more information or to purchase the documentary visit: www.forloveofliberty.org
(Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)