Two world wars, the Jazz Age, the Civil Rights Movement, and one exceptional man who connects them all. Meet Eugene Bullard, the most interesting historical figure you’ve never heard of.
Bullard, the world’s first African-American fighter pilot and legend extraordinaire, is the subject of “All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard — Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy” (Hanover Square Press Hardcover; November 5, 2019; $27.99), a new book by authors and East End residents Phil Keith and Tom Calvin. In the book, the pair invite readers to take a deep dive into the remarkable untold story of Eugene Bullard, a man who came from nothing and — through his own courage, determination, intelligence, and luck — forged a legendary life.
The son of an ex-slave, In 1907 Gene Bullard ran away from his home in Georgia to France, where he had been told racial prejudice was non-existent. He had a promising future as a boxer but joined the French Foreign Legion when World War I broke out. With two serious wounds during two years of trench warfare, he received medals for his bravery, and became the first black man to become a fighter pilot.
Between the wars, he owned two world-class jazz clubs in Paris, and when the Nazis invaded in 1939, he spied for the Resistance, and signed up to fight again. Wounded, he was spirited out of France, back to America where he lobbied for French causes, the American Legion, and Civil Rights. His story sounds fantastical, but all of it is true.
Through persistent research, in their book, Keith and Clavin offer readers a deeply thought-provoking survey of the 20th century by shedding light on 50 years of inspiring achievements made by an American hero who fell quietly into obscurity.
Phil Keith and Tom Clavin both have a number of books to their name. Both have also written regularly for the Southampton Press and East Hampton Press. On Wednesday, November 20, at noon, they will speak about their book at Rogers Memorial Library, 91 Cooper’s Farm Road, Southampton. Bring lunch. The library will serve cider and cookies.