I was on the lookout for a good story. You know the kind I mean – big, with all the great themes - love, hate, anger, greed, sacrifice and redemption. Ingredients that properly mixed and baked offered a taste of the pie called the human condition. I was on the lookout and thought I’d found it the day Dr. Willard Gatewood introduced me to Private David Fagen, a black American who, in time of war, traded his future for the chance to help another “colored” people gain freedom. A tremendous story, it contained all the elements, just what I’d been looking for, but it was the wrong war.

“No one knows anything about the Spanish-American War,” I complained. There’s no sympathy for it, no romance. Where’s the sizzle, the sparkle? Easy to envision a good story against the backdrop of World War II and certainly the Civil War, but the Spanish-American War? Dr. Gatewood smiled, regarded me indulgently, and then told me to do my homework. Here’s a little of what I discovered:
Influenced by pro-business conservatives eager to take control of Spain’s colonies in the Pacific, in 1898 President McKinley asked Congress for a Declaration of War, and then launched America’s first adventure in Imperialism. An unprovoked war of conquest and occupation, it was the first time African-American soldiers fought and died in an overseas war.
America destroyed the weakened and spiritless Spanish in six weeks. Later, in the Treaty of Paris, Spain sold her colonies to the United States for twenty million dollars. Under the banner of liberator, America occupied Guam, Puerto Rico and the Philippines and stayed to rule through a system of military governorships for nearly fifty years. To establish and maintain U.S. control, President McKinley implemented a policy of “Benevolent Assimilation” and sent thousands of soldiers to enforce it. Desirous of self-rule, the Filipinos resisted American occupation. A bloody, eight-year campaign ensued against the guerilla forces. Reports vary, but many suggest more than four hundred thousand Filipino men, women and children lost their lives in the fight for independence during this “splendid little war.”
Through this work of fiction, I endeavor to explore this extraordinary and highly significant chapter in our nation’s past, which I believe echoes other American campaigns for empire in the twentieth century and beyond.