Broadnax, Samuel L.
Broadnax, Samuel L.
Education: Studied at Yuba College, Howard University, and University of California, Berkeley.
Newscaster and journalist. Military service: Army Air Corps, 332nd Replacement Training Unit with the Tuskegee Airmen.
Corecipient of the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, 2006.
Blue Skies, Black Wings: African American Pioneers of Aviation, foreword by Alan M. Osur, Praeger (Westport, CT), 2007.
Samuel L. Broadnax is a retired American newscaster and journalist. Born in the mid-1920s, Broadnax enlisted in the Army Air Corps at the age of seventeen and graduated from the Tuskegee Army Air Base as a fighter pilot with Class-45A in March, 1945. He was subsequently assigned to the 332nd Replacement Training Unit of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. After World War II ended, he left the army. Broadnax then studied at a number of universities, including Marysville, California's Yuba College, Howard University, and the University of California, Berkeley. He also went on to work as a newscaster and a journalist. In 2006, Broadnax and the other members of the Tuskegee Airmen were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.
In 2007, Broadnax published his first book. Blue Skies, Black Wings: African American Pioneers of Aviation, with a foreword by Alan M. Osur. The book, born from Broadnax's love of aviation and interest in recording the stories and experience of his fellow Tuskegee Airmen, gives these tales, along with his own views on the war, the airmen, and the times. Broadnax explains his background and reasons for getting into the Army Air Corps, and his early fascination with watching the stunt planes flying at carnivals in rural California. The book covers his time at the Tuskegee Army Air Base, relations with and stories of his fellow airmen, and the difficulties they faced in society and in the military, primarily race-based problems that plagued the era and the region. Broadnax also discusses the difficulties encountered while desegregating the U.S. military during World War II, noting the political and social ramifications as well as the inner struggle the airmen faced wanting to fly and fight for a country that denied them equal status. Broadnax highlights the events of the 1945 Freeman Field fight opposing segregationist positions in the Army Air Corps. The book moves on to highlight the accomplishments of other black pioneers of aviation, including Charles Wesley Peters, who piloted his own plane in 1911, and Eugene Bullard, who flew for the French army during World War I.
A contributor to the Reference & Research Book News recommended the book "for aviation enthusiasts and historians." Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush noted that Broadnax "vividly recalls" a number of details from his struggles with segregation, racism, and also clearly describes his wartime service. Bush observed that "Broadnax's own love of flying is evident." Bush concluded by calling the account "a unique report resource for advanced readers."
Broadnax told CA: "Dr. Alan M. Osur, who wrote the foreword to Blue Skies, Black Wings, published the book Blacks in the Army Air Forces during World War II as part of his doctoral dissertation in the late 1970s. His book was one of the sources of reference for my works.
"My very first interest in writing came after high school class discussions of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,’ and later Ernest Hemingway's short story ‘The Killers,’ which had been assigned as class projects. Early on, in writing short stories, I was greatly influenced by Hemingway and tried to emulate his style. However, in radio broadcasting the style is simplistically straightforward and essentially formulaic. The voices airing the news may be different but the transmitted style is duplicated. There is no yelling, crying, or boisterous sounding deliveries—only the steady patter of interest.
"My process of writing is to outline the story then begin to fill in the blanks. I also try to have as much mentally stored information about the subject as possible. That allows me the choice of pausing without actually frequently stopping to go back to reference material.
"The thing that surprised me most in writing has been to describe positive acts in paragraphs and later learn a simple change of two or three words can make a villain of a positively heroic character. A second surprise came when I decided to write from the distaff point of view. That wasn't easy. So many little things taken for granted now had to be included or excluded depending on whose thoughts were being portrayed."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Blue Skies, Black Wings: African American Pioneers of Aviation, p. 12.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, August, 2007, M. Levinson, review of Blue Skies, Black Wings, p. 2126.
Reference & Research Book News, May, 2007, review of Blue Skies, Black Wings.