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Breath of Freedom

"Breath Of Freedom" features an interview with late Congressman John Lewis.
Broadview TV, GMBH
"Breath Of Freedom" features an interview with late Congressman John Lewis.

Premieres Monday, June 12, 2023 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV / Stream now with KPBS Passport!

At the end of World War II, African American GIs were stationed in Germany as part of a policy to help rid the country of racism and oppression, despite the ironic reality of strict segregation back home. “Breath of Freedom" represents the largely untold story of Black soldiers during and after the war. Hundreds of thousands remained in Germany as part of the American Army of Occupation, and many found greater freedom there than they had back in the U.S., particularly the American South. Their experiences in Europe both during and after the war played an often-overlooked role in setting the stage for the 1960s civil rights movement.

Breath of Freedom preview

“I first went to Germany in January 1959. I had just finished my training in Columbus, Georgia at Ft. Benning. Columbus, Georgia, was still segregated. There was discrimination, there was racism. For me, a young lieutenant who couldn’t go off the post in Columbus but could go off the post anywhere in Germany, it was a breath of freedom,” former Secretary of State and U.S. Army General (Ret.) Colin Powell recalled in a featured interview for the program.


Narrated by Cuba Gooding, Jr., this documentary features interviews with General Colin Powell as well as U.S. Representative John Lewis of Georgia; Charles Evers, a World War II veteran, civil rights activist and brother of Medgar Evers, whose 1963 murder was a catalyst for the civil rights movement; Leon Bass, who helped build a bridge that allowed reinforcements and supplies to reach embattled Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge; Dr. Roscoe Brown, a Tuskegee Airmen who shot down an Me-262 jet fighter; John Hendricks, a D-Day veteran who became a famous jazz musician; Judge Charles Johnson; Theodor Michael, a German film maker and writer of African descent who served as a translator in post-war Germany; and more.

Also featured are contemporary interviews with African Americans and Germans who experienced the war and post-war Germany, as well as period film footage of World War II and of segregated facilities in America. Some events are also dramatized using animations drawn in a style reminiscent of graphic novels or manga, presenting a fresh way to illustrate specific moments and events described in the program for which no visual record exists, including the recounted memory of a German girl approaching a Black soldier and rubbing his hand to see if the color will rub off.

Watch On Your Schedule: This film is available on demand with KPBS Passport is a member benefit that unlocks exclusive shows and extra content on the PBS App.

Credits: Broadview TV, GMBH and distributed to the public television system by American Public Television.