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Sweet Georgia Brown    cover photo

Sweet Georgia Brown 2015

Recommended with reservations

Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016; 202-808-4980
Produced by PureHistory
Directed by Lawrence E. Walker
DVD, color, 88 min.

High School - General Adult
African Americans, Discrimination, Military, U.S. History, Women’s History, World War II

Date Entered: 03/10/2016

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Rosie the Riveter is an iconic image of women supporting the war effort at home. During World War II, it’s important to note, women also served in the U.S. military in large numbers. Of the more than 300,000 women who enlisted in the SPARS (Coast Guard), WAVES (Navy), WAC (Army), WASP (Air Force), or Marine Corps Women’s Reserves (MCWR) units, a disproportional majority (nearly 95% in most cases) were white. For the limited number of African American women admitted to military service, and for those few who made the military a career after the war, the shared experience of racial segregation, discrimination, and gender bias is a narrative that is largely unknown and poorly covered in history textbooks.

In the first group of 400 women who reported to Fort Des Moines, Iowa, for basic training in 1941, only 40 were African American. Based on autobiographies, oral histories, and archival material, this film attempts to tell the inspirational story of the “ten percenters.” Unfortunately, the filmmaker is only partially successful in achieving his purpose. While the information presented is interesting, the lack of clear organization and editing are barriers to fully appreciating the sacrifice and courage of these military women. Likewise, sound issues, misspellings in some of the text, repetitive use of images, and ineffective re-enactments detract from the overall technical quality of the film. Despite these problems, the topic is one that deserves more attention. As a format and platform for preserving the history of African American women in the U.S. military, the film is recommended with reservations.