The Hellfighters of Harlem: African-American Soldiers Who Fought for the Right to Fight for Their Country

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9780786710508: The Hellfighters of Harlem: African-American Soldiers Who Fought for the Right to Fight for Their Country

The author paints a lively portrait of the Hellfighters of Harlem--the Army's most celebrated all-black unit during World War I--chronicling their fierce struggle to be allowed to serve, their exploits in Europe, their influence on American culture, and their continuing contributions in World War II and in Iraq during the Gulf War.

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The prevailing view that blacks were cowards excluded any consideration of enlisting them for military fighting duty in World War I. But because the nation was ill-equipped and low on manpower at the war's start, black troops were called into active duty, including the 369th regiment rooted in a New York National Guard unit centered in Harlem. General John J. Pershing, who'd had good experiences with black troops, was a strong supporter of blacks as fighters. Still, black infantry was banned from serving under U.S. command and were assigned to the French army. Harris recounts the numerous black troops' heroics and exploits, on and off the battlefield. He includes as a subtext the career of Lt. James Reese Europe, the black jazz pioneer whose band dazzled Europe and presented an American face often more appreciated in Europe than at home. Harris also provides an overview of black military involvement from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War, highlighting history unknown by many. Vernon Ford
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