5:30PM: Reception co-hosted by The History Channel
6:00PM: Screening 761st Tank Battalion (1hr 26min)
7:30PM: Post-screening discussion  

Roosevelt House is pleased to present a screening of the History Channel documentary 761st Tank Battalion: The Original Black Panthers. From executive producer Morgan Freeman, the film explores the powerful story of the heroic first black armored unit to serve in combat during WWII—and the major battles they faced both overseas and back home. Following the screening, Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Program Basil Smikle will be in conversation with the film’s director Phil Bertelsen.

Better known as “the original Black Panthers,” the 761st was the only Black tank unit to see combat in World War II. Formed in the spring of 1942, this unit of soldiers played a significant role in military operations during the war against Nazi Germany. However, while facing one enemy overseas, they faced another in their home country—racism, segregation, and inequality. Despite unprecedented adversity, these brave men lived up to their tenacious motto, “Come Out Fighting,” and became one of the most accomplished tank battalions is U.S. military history.

A deeply personal story for Freeman, 761st Tank Battalion features an interview with one of the last surviving members of the battalion, as well as the current and first Black Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III. The documentary also includes new and archival interviews, period footage and still photographs, insights from prominent historians and experts on racial inequality, and stories from the family and relatives of the Black Panther soldiers.

Phil Bertelsen is an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning filmmaker. He has directed or co-directed films and television shows including: the six-part Netflix series Who Killed Malcolm X, which he also produced; the NBC/MSNBC documentary Hope and Fury, about Martin Luther King, Jr., the media, and the civil rights movement; the NAACP Image Award-nominated Through The Fire, about the presidency of Barack Obama; Chisholm ’72, about Shirley Chisholm’s unprecedented 1972 run for president; and an episode of the Hulu docuseries The 1619 Project. He has also produced and directed multiple episodes of the Columbia-DuPont Award winning documentary series The African Americans—Many Rivers To Cross and several episodes of Finding Your Roots, both hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on PBS. His forthcoming projects include a documentary about former congressman and Black Panther Party member Bobby Rush and Seen & Heard, a two-part HBO docuseries from executive producer Issa Rae about the history of Black television.

Basil A. Smikle Jr. is a Distinguished Lecturer and Director of the Public Policy Program at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. Previously, he was appointed by former Governor David Paterson to serve as the Executive Director of the New York State Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential cycle where he was the “second highest ranking Democrat” in the State. He holds a PhD in Politics and Education and an MPA from Columbia University and received a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. He is a frequent on-screen public affairs commentator for CNN and MSNBC.

The History Channel, part of A&E Television Networks, is a 24-hour-a-day programming service that began broadcasting in January 1995. It features original documentaries, special miniseries, and historical movies in its nightly prime-time schedule. Part of the History Channel’s mission is to raise awareness about the vitality of history, promote history education, and encourage the preservation of historic archives and sites.

761st Tank Battalion: The Original Black Panthers | Posted on February 8th, 2024 | Film Screenings, Public Programs