Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace
In the spring of 1943, nineteen year old Ashley Bryan was drafted into US Army. Bryan had grown up in the Bronx where he was always drawing. In his third year at New York’s Cooper Union, he helped the students’ war efforts as much as he could, while remaining focused on developing as an artist. Until he reported for duty, Bryan had paid little attention to his own African-American ethnicity. He was shocked when it was brought forcibly to his attention at the railway of New York’s military induction center when the loudspeaker came on announcing, “Whites on one side, Blacks on the other.”
This was Bryan’s introduction to the harsh segregation inflicted upon him and the 502nd Port Battalion of black stevedore soldiers to which he was assigned. Bryan loved his companions, appreciated their skills, and turned down officer training to remain with them –through their D-Day landing on Omaha Beach. Terrible at dealing with the large and loud machinery which the stevedores used for their work, his mates told him time and time again, “Let us do that Ashley, you go and draw!”
As so many people were, Bryan was seared by his war experiences. While his art enabled him to cling to hope, when he returned home, he nevertheless tucked away his letters and drawings from the war. Now in his nineties, friends discovered Bryan had saved these materials. He was encouraged to write about his experiences in a book using his war drawings as illustrations. Exquisitely designed with collages of paintings, sketches, letters, photographs on excellent paper, this book is not only a stellar memoir celebrating the role of art in maintaining hope under horrendous conditions, it also celebrates the neglected history of black soldiers. This book is a knock-out!
Kemie Nix ©2019 Parents’ Choice
Kemie Nix is Chairman of Children’s Literature for Children (CLC), a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated to bringing children and books together. Mrs. Nix, a senior book editor for Parents’ Choice, has a remarkable sense of selecting books children love to read.