An American Dream

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Throughout his life, Clarence Adams exhibited self-reliance, ambition, ingenuity, courage, and a commitment to learning-character traits often equated with the successful pursuit of the American Dream. Unfortunately, for an African American coming of age in the 1930s and 1940s, such attributes counted for little, especially in the South. Adams was a seventeen-year-old high school dropout in 1947 when he fled Memphis to join the U.S. Army. Three years later, after fighting in the Korean War in an all-black artillery unit that he believed to have been sacrificed to save white troops, he was captured by the Chinese. After spending almost three years as a POW, he refused repatriation in 1953, choosing instead the People's Republic of China, where he hoped to find educational and career opportunities not readily available in his own country.

While living in China, Adams earned a university degree, married a Chinese professor of Russian, and worked in Beijing as a translator for the Foreign Languages Press. During the Vietnam War he made a controversial anti-war broadcast over Radio Hanoi, urging black troops not to fight for someone else's political and economic freedoms until they enjoyed these same rights at home. In 1966, having come under suspicion during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, he returned with his wife and two children to the United States, where he was subpoenaed to appear before the House Committee on Un-American Activities to face charges of "disrupting the morale of American fighting forces in Vietnam and inciting revolution in the United States." After these charges were dropped, he and his family struggled to survive economically. Eventually, through sheerperseverance, they were able to fulfill at least part of the American Dream. By the time he died, the family had owned and operated eight Chinese restaurants in his native Memphis.

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Editorial Reviews

H-Net H-War
Clarence Adams's An American Dream is a relatively short work, yet it contains many different kinds and levels of information that will appeal to a variety of scholarly interests. -- James Gillam, Department of History, Spelman College
Memphis Magazine
I was determined to be my own person and control my own destiny, and no one else was going to define who I was or tell me what I was supposed to do. When you think about it, isn't this what America is supposed to be all about?' It's what "An American Dream" is certainly about. And as stories go, it's a fascinating, underreported chapter in Memphis and Cold War history.
Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
Serious historians will value this book as a firsthand account of the POW camps, segregation in Memphis, and its discussion of fellow prisoners and racial dynamics in the POW camps. Students will appreciate the well-written, easily digestible prose and Adams's storytelling ability, along with his telling eye for detail and his ironic commentary. This book is an important contribution to the history of the Korean conflict.
The Bloomsbury Review
It's hard to put down this compelling biographical narrative by a Korean War veteran and POW who elected to settle in China after the war rather than return to the low horizons available to African Americans in the pre-civil-rights-era South.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558495944
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 6/6/2007
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 8.85 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations     ix
Preface   Lewis H. Carlson     xi
Introduction   Della Adams     xv
Skippy: The Formative Years     1
U.S. Army Combat Soldier: Korea     23
Captured!     39
Camp 5     46
Turncoat?     65
University Days: Beijing and Wuhan     73
Marriage and Family     84
The Foreign Languages Press, Africans, and the Vietnam Broadcasts     93
Going Home!     105
Recriminations     116
Bootstrapping to the American Dream     129
Postscript   Della Adams     143
Clarence Cecil Adams Time Line     147
Notes     151
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