Militant Visions
286 pages, 6 x 9
7 photographs
Release Date:01 Aug 2016
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Militant Visions

Black Soldiers, Internationalism, and the Transformation of American Cinema

Rutgers University Press
Militant Visions examines how, from the 1940s to the 1970s, the cinematic figure of the black soldier helped change the ways American moviegoers saw black men, for the first time presenting African Americans as vital and integrated members of the nation. In the process, Elizabeth Reich reveals how the image of the proud and powerful African American serviceman was crafted by an unexpected alliance of government propagandists, civil rights activists, and black filmmakers. Contextualizing the figure in a genealogy of black radicalism and internationalism, Reich shows the evolving images of black soldiers to be inherently transnational ones, shaped by the displacements of diaspora, Third World revolutionary philosophy, and a legacy of black artistry and performance.

Offering a nuanced reading of a figure that was simultaneously conservative and radical, Reich considers how the cinematic black soldier lent a human face to ongoing debates about racial integration, black internationalism, and American militarism. Militant Visions thus not only presents a new history of how American cinema represented race, but also demonstrates how film images helped to make history, shaping the progress of the civil rights movement itself.
Militant Visions is an engaging and welcome contribution to a vibrant field of emerging scholarship on African American film and media. Kara Keeling, author of The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense
Reich's book is always informed, and its value is enhanced by 32 pages of footnotes and 6 pages of bibliography … Recommended. Choice
Militant Visions uncovers a crucial, previously hidden dimension of American filmmaking, and of African American film spectatorship and response, showing how cinematic representations of black masculinity from the Forties to the Seventies contributed to the larger social movement for black emancipation. Steven Shaviro, Wayne State University
In this revelatory revisionist history of twentieth-century American film, Reich demonstrates that the figure of the black soldier has served as a lightning rod for a welter of national anxieties around race, masculinity, and allegiance. Brent Hayes Edwards, author of The Practice of Diaspora
ELIZABETH REICH is an assistant professor of film studies at Connecticut College in New London. She is the coeditor of Film Criticism’s special issue on “New Approaches to Cinematic Identification.”  
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