Melanie Coen
Dole Institute of Politics

Kevin Willmott talk planned with screenings of Tuskegee Airmen film

Mon, 04/01/2013

LAWRENCE — The Dole Institute of Politics and the University of Kansas Libraries will host a program on the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first African-American military aviators, featuring KU professor Kevin Willmott. Willmott will look at the historical and racial significance of their service through the film lens in the program, “The Tuskegee Airmen: 'Red Tails' Examined by Kevin Willmott.”

The program is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 9, at the Dole Institute of Politics, 2350 Petefish Drive. This program also includes two free screenings of the movie “Red Tails” on Tuesday, April 2, at 2:30 p.m. in the Simons Media Room of the Dole Institute and at 7 p.m. in the Centennial Room of the Kansas Union. Movie snacks will be provided.

“Willmott’s interest in the medium of war films and his work related to what it’s like to be African-American make him uniquely qualified to shed light on the contributions of these servicemen,” said Dole Institute director Bill Lacy. “The use of film allows us to go back in American history and retell important events for generations to come.”

Willmott is associate professor of film and media studies at KU and has written, directed and produced for the stage, the screen and television. His play, “T-Money and Wolf,” co-written with Ric Averill, was selected for a series by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Several of his movie scripts have been purchased by major movie studios, such as 20th Century Fox, and director Oliver Stone hired Willmott to co-write “Little Brown Brothers,” a movie about the Philippine insurrection.  For television, Willmott co-wrote “House of Getty” and “The ‘70's,” both mini-series for NBC. “The 70's” aired in May of 2000.

Most recently Willmott authored “Colored Men,” a screenplay about the Houston riot of 1917. He also adapted "The Watsons Go to Birmingham" for CBS, Columbia Tri-Star and Executive Producer Whoopi Goldberg. His recent film, “CSA: The Confederate States of America,” is about the United States had the South won the Civil War.

“Red Tails” is a 2012 American war film produced by Lucasfilm and released by 20th Century Fox. The film is a fictionalized portrayal of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African-American United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) servicemen during World War II.

The “Red Tails” program is the third event in a series on African-Americans in World War II that is the result of a partnership between the Dole Institute and KU Libraries and made possible by KU Associate Professor Sandra Gautt, a member of the KU Libraries Board of Advocates. Also at the Dole Institute in April is a temporary exhibit sponsored by Spencer Research Library. Titled “World War II and African Americans in the Kansas Region,” it features some of the area’s military and civilian contributions to WWII through photographs, documents, correspondence, a Tuskegee Airman uniform and a small model of the earliest plane flown by the Tuskegee Airmen.

“This program honors the soldiers who fought for the right to fight. Our African-American World War II veterans proved that courage has no color,” said Lorraine Haricombe, dean of the KU Libraries. “We are delighted with the opportunity to partner with the Dole Institute in bringing to the community this stirring discussion and inside look at this inspiring film.”

The program is co-sponsored by the KU Department of African and African-American Studies, KU Filmworks, KU Black Student Union and the Langston Hughes Center and Arnold Air Society, also at KU.

For more information on this or any Dole Institute programs, visit or call (785) 864-4900. The Dole Institute of Politics is dedicated to promoting public service, civic engagement and politics. It is located on KU’s west campus next to the Lied Center.

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Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here:
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

RT @kulibraries : Check out this news feature & then check out his book with us: #KULibraries #KUWorks…
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

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