Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Little-Known American Heroes

Please welcome Eric, who works at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, to the Eleventh Stack team rotation. To learn a little more about him, as well as our other contributors, visit the About Us page.

Relatively few folks know anything about the Spanish Civil War, or the significance of the Americans who volunteered to be a part of the fighting in the 1930s as a part of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Before the Second World War, another fight against fascism was happening in Europe. Luckily for you, dear Eleventh Stack reader,  the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has a number of fantastic resources on this little-known bit of wildly interesting and very important American history.

Cecil D. Eby delivers a solid, interesting and highly readable history of the Lincoln Battalion in his book Comrades and Commissars: The Lincoln Battalion in the Spanish Civil War. His work gives a good sense of not only the events that preceded the war itself, but also the entry of the International Brigades, and the American volunteers who went to Spain on their own to fight fascism.

Madrid, 1937: Letters of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade From the Spanish Civil War is a wonderfully personal glimpse into the lives and thoughts of the plumbers, students, teachers and poets who made up the Lincoln Brigades. This collection, edited by Cary Nelson and Jefferson Hendricks, is at once a powerful emotional connection to the Spanish Civil War, but also an important historical collection!

Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, this is kind of interesting, but I’m not sure I want to commit to sitting down and reading a big ole history book on a war I’ve never even heard of.”  I say, fair point! How about a couple of fantastic films on the subject, then?

The Good Fight: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade in the Spanish Civil War is a fantastic documentary featuring some narration by none other than the legendary Studs Terkel. It provides an excellent overview of the conflict as well as personal input from members of the Lincoln Brigade. With plenty of footage and stills from the 1930s in Spain, this film gives an excellent sense of not only what occurred but also what the Americans involved thought about it. Likewise, Into the Fire: American Women in the Spanish Civil War is an excellent film that traces a solid sketch of the events of the conflict while focusing on the role of American women in the  Lincoln Brigade. It is a beautiful, heart-wrenching, fascinating film.

Learn about these truly unsung heroes of American history and what they faced when they returned to the States following their service. Whether you are already a student of history or just interested in a little-known, but important, chapter of the American experience, check out these titles!

–Eric

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