The amazing story of the Black Sparrow

Originally published at: The amazing story of the Black Sparrow | Boing Boing


Eugene Ballard was indeed amazing, which always made it a shame that the dreadful movie, Flyboys, tried to model a character (Eugene Skinner) on him. It could have been an awesome film ABOUT Ballard instead.


What an incredible story about an incredible man. It does indeed deserve a mini-series.


I’d love to see his life as a TV/streaming series or miniseries. Maybe someone in production is reading this post and is already thinking of a pitch… :slight_smile:


Haven’t heard of this gentleman before so thanks for the share, eager to read about his exploits after work today :slight_smile:


Really mind-blowing. He should be as famous as George Washington. Every American school kid should know his story and accomplishments. Certainly a better example than most of our culturally-elevated ‘heroes.’
Cringing when I think about what a commercial production is likely to do with his biography, though. I would love to see a strenuously accurate adaptation, though.


This article should be posted everywhere. I have not heard of this gentleman and am better for it. Thank you for this.


The Black Sparrow or Black Swallow?

Maybe in France. Institutional racism will continue to prevent this story from being taken up by Hollywood.

Not so sure what you mean by this. Are you saying Hollywood does not produce movies about black people? Heroic black people? I can certainly find (and have watched) a good number of examples of both…

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France is hardly free of racism, both casual and institutional.


Yep, that’s what I mean by that.


Just got done reading the piece about the Sparrow and it’s certainly a hell of a ride. A life well lived, i was very touched by the end of the article.


That may be true, there are racists everywhere there are humans, but Bullard is an honored hero in France. In the US he was beaten by white supremacists and found his brother had been lynched.

They might get his nickname correct.

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Really inexplicable why the author of the story linked to failed to get “Black Swallow” right. The name likely came from Bullard’s membership in the 170th French Infantry Regiment known as the " hirondelles de la mort " (“swallows of death”). The Wikipedia article on Bullard seems to be better researched with a lengthy list of citations. There I found that there is a 2019 biography so I will check that out of my local library and hopefully learn more about this fascinating man.

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Yeah, I don’t care about the Oscars, personally – haven’t watched them or cared about them or any other entertainment award since, well, ever. I agree that the underrepresentation with awards and so much else is a huge issue, as some people do care about these things.

I also obviously understand that Hollywood has been and continues to be racist on many levels, and this too ought to change.

However, your blanket decree that "it simply will never be made because Hollywood is racist (to paraphrase) does huge injustice, IMHO, to the black actors, actresses, filmmakers, technicians, etc. who have defied odds and norms, and been able to have great works made. Acting like “it’s impossible” edits these (too-limited) successes out of the history books, and I find that also offensive, frankly, and a huge disservice to a great history of black cinema (as well as films created by and featuring talents from other marginalized communities).

You are attributing to me thoughts that I have not expressed and do not hold.

You are more than welcome to expand on your thoughts as to why, in your specific words, “Institutional racism will continue to prevent this story from being taken up by Hollywood.” And I’m certainly interested and would listen. Or not, obviously up to you. But if you’re going to make a pretty wide decree stating it’s a story that will never be told by Hollywood because of its inherent racism, people might think of a lot of other films about heroic black people, and not quite understand what you’re trying to convey.

I have worked in the industry. I know how hard it is to get a movie made at all. Movies by or about black people are significantly under-represented in the list of movies made. This does not mean that these movies don’t get made; it’s just orders of magnitude harder in a system that is already really hard. That’s what prevents good movie ideas about black heroes from being made in Hollywood. That is the institutional racism I am talking about. This does not take away from the great African-American oeuvre that we have. But ask any of those black writers, producers, directors and actors that have brought those movies into being whether there is racism in Hollywood. Ask Spike Lee, Gary Gray, Ava DuVernay, Charles Stone, … what they had to face to get their movies made. Spike has not been shy about this at all - Google it.

So, yeah, I don’t know for sure that I can say with 100% certainty that Hollywood’s institutional racism is preventing the Black Swallow’s tale from being put on the screen but is surely not helping. Eugene Bullard was a hero of WWI and is virtually unknown in the US; we have had a hundred years to make his story. Audie Murphy was a hero of WWII, came home and became a film star, then played himself in a film about his wartime experiences that was made less than 10 years after the war. Eugene Ballard came back to the US and the opportunity open for him was elevator operator. We’re still waiting for the movie of his life.