American Patriots: A Young People's Edition: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm

American Patriots: A Young People's Edition: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm

by Gail Lumet Buckley, Tonya Bolden

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They fought on Lexington Green the first morning of the Revolution and survived the bitter cold winter at Valley Forge. They stormed San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and manned an anti-aircraft gun at Pearl Harbor. They are the black Americans who fought, often in foreign lands, for freedoms that they did not enjoy at home.
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They fought on Lexington Green the first morning of the Revolution and survived the bitter cold winter at Valley Forge. They stormed San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and manned an anti-aircraft gun at Pearl Harbor. They are the black Americans who fought, often in foreign lands, for freedoms that they did not enjoy at home.
Adapted for young readers, this dramatic story brings to life the heroism of people such as Crispus Attucks, Benjamin O. Davis, Charity Adams, and Colin Powell, and captures the spirit that drove these Americans to better their lives and demand of themselves the highest form of sacrifice.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
African-American heroes take center stage in American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm by Gail Buckley, adapted for younger readers by Tonya Bolden, from the author's adult book (with the same title). The volume spotlights the role of African-Americans from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War, including Vaughn Love (who fought during the Spanish Civil War), Col. Fred V. Cherry, a POW in Vietnam, and Colin Powell, four-star general in Desert Storm. Among the women profiled: Maj. Charity Adams and Lt. Harriet Pickens, both of whom served in WWII, and Maj. Flossie Satcher, who served in Desert Storm. Direct quotes and a 16-page photo inset give the historical accounts a sense of urgency.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This work complements Bernard Nalty's academically oriented history of blacks in America's wars, Strength for the Fight (1986), and Gerald Astor's narrative account, The Right to Fight (1998). Basing her account heavily on interviews and similar primary material, Buckley focuses on the particular experiences of black soldiers. She pulls no punches in describing discrimination against black soldiers, misrepresentation of their performances and denial of their achievements. But in a dominant culture that for much of its history was overtly segregated and highly racist, the pressures of necessity opened military service to blacks. It began as an individual process during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. By the end of the Civil War, the Union army counted its black soldiers in entire divisions and army corps. Black regiments, regulars and volunteers, served in the Plains Indian Wars and in the wars of empire at the century's turn. During the First World War, black troops won more credit under French colors than a segregated American Expeditionary Force would allow. Some black activists of the interwar years correspondingly turned to the revolutionary promises of Communism, playing a role in the Spanish Civil War's International Brigades, which Buckley arguably exaggerates. WWII was America's last segregated conflict. In Buckley's account the armed forces have succeeded in acknowledging past racism, while proving that liberal values like equality of treatment and opportunity are able to coexist with conservative ones like duty, honor and patriotism. (On-sale date: May 15) Forecast: Buckley, daughter of Lena Horne (and author of The Hornes), should have no trouble getting media attention on her six-city tour. Military history buffs and a broader readership interested in African-American history will turn out to buy this. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Drawing a thread from the story of her own forebears, which she spun in The Hornes: An American Family (LJ 7/86. o.p.), journalist Buckley (Vogue, Los Angeles Times) tells the stirring story of blacks in the U.S. military, both at home and abroad, from the 1770s to the 1990s. The author reviews the experiences of Crispus Attucks and his fellow blacks during the Revolutionary War, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in the Civil War, the Buffalo Soldiers of the Indians Wars, the 369th Regiment (the most decorated U.S. unit of World War I), and many more. Buckley's 11 chapters portray blacks fighting in and against the U.S. military as well as against racism in the belief that they could make a difference and improve their own lives and their country's heritage by pushing it closer to its own promise of freedom. This readable, spirited story deserves a place in every U.S. history collection, as well as in the black or military collections, which will find it essential. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/01.] Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Buckley originally wrote Patriots for an adult audience, and this abridgment is still a deeply moving and inspiring account of the history of African Americans in the U.S. military and their unrecognized heroism in the face of overt racism. Based on years of research and primary material, the volume presents the stories of many people ignored in standard history books. The accounts of the prejudice faced by these soldiers are hard to read, but important for understanding the significance of their achievements and the role that segregation played in military history and in the larger history of this country. Understandably, the text is dense and requires a certain level of knowledge of United States history and world events. The book includes 16 pages of captioned, black-and-white photographs and/or illustrations from each war covered and an extensive bibliography. The suggested reading list is tailored for a younger audience and includes such titles as Catherine Clinton's The Black Soldier: 1492 to the Present (Houghton, 2000), which would be a valuable addition for libraries wanting subject coverage for readers who are not ready for Buckley's book. The latter volume will serve as a standard resource for older students and may well spark interest in other adult titles on related topics. Libraries would do well to own both books.-Jennifer Ralston, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Paring away the footnotes, considerable background detail, and many individual anecdotes, Bolden cuts Buckley’s monumental, same-titled history (2001) by about half. What remains is still a sweeping account of heroism on two fronts, as the African-Americans who fought in each of this country’s wars have done so in the face of more than two centuries of overt racial prejudice, both inside and outside the services. The author(s) begin with Crispus Attucks, end with Colin Powell, and in between track the exploits of dozens of soldiers and units, occasionally grinding the axe—"Unlike the black soldiers with whom he would ‘never submit to fight,’ [future Senator Robert C.] Byrd did not serve in the military in World War II"—but more intent on chronicling the slow, hard-won integration of the armed forces. Even in this abridged version, the tallies of names and unit numbers may hang heavy over young readers’ heads, but it will serve equally well as an update for older histories, and a gateway to the many adult-level titles on the topic. (bibliography, b&w photo section) (Nonfiction. 13-15)

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Random House Children's Books
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The Revolution

I served in the Revolution, in General Washington's army. . . . I have stood in battle, where balls, like hail, were flying all around me. The man standing next to me was shot by my side--his blood spouted upon my clothes, which I wore for weeks. My nearest blood, except that which runs in my veins, was shed for liberty. My only brother was shot dead instantly in the Revolution. Liberty is dear to my heart--I cannot endure the thought, that my countrymen should be slaves.

--"Dr. Harris," a veteran of the 1st Rhode Island, in an address to an anti-slavery society in Francestown, New Hampshire, 1842

By 1770, Crispus Attucks, the son of an African father and a Native American mother, had spent some twenty years at sea, having escaped slavery in Framingham, Massachusetts, when he was about twenty-seven years old.

On the night of March 5, 1770, Attucks was in Boston's King Street tavern when an alarm bell was heard from the street's British sentry. When Attucks led a stick- and bat-wielding group of fellows from the tavern, he discovered that the sentry was under "attack" only from snowball-throwing boys. Still, Attucks and his mob took the side of the boys against the Redcoats--using heavy sticks instead of snowballs. Witnesses said that Attucks, striking the first blow, caused arriving British soldiers to open fire. British musket shots hit eleven people, killing five: four white men and Crispus Attucks--the first to die, from two shots to the chest.

Some Bostonians had little regard for the victims. In his defense of the British soldiers, lawyer John Adams blamed Attucks for the mini riot, dismissing him as a rabble-rouser--

the leader of a gang of lowlifes and rowdies. The merchant John Hancock, like Adams a future signer of the Declaration of

Independence, also accused Attucks of provoking the "Boston Massacre"--but from a praiseworthy point of view. "Who taught the British soldier that he might be defeated?" Hancock later asked. "Who dared look into his eyes? I place, therefore, this Crispus Attucks in the foremost rank of the men that dared."

Although the British soldiers were acquitted from any wrongdoing, the Americans won the lion's share of public support and sympathy. Crispus Attucks and his companions became the first popular martyrs of the Revolution.

By the time of the Boston Massacre, Britain controlled North America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River, as well as most of the islands that made up the West Indies. The debt Britain had incurred securing much of this territory during the French and Indian Wars (1689-1763) had led to heavy taxation of the thirteen colonies, which, in British eyes, existed only for the benefit of the mother country. The thirteen colonies, with a budding sense of nationhood, saw any form of taxation as slavery. The mother country's Sugar Act, Stamp Act, and other acts of taxation sparked bold acts of defiance, such as the "Boston Tea Party" on the night of December 16, 1773.

Black people also engaged in protest--against slavery. In 1773, Massachusetts courts and legislature saw several petitions from enslaved blacks, asking for their freedom along with, in one case, some "unimproved land" on which to build new lives. At the time, out of a total population of 2,600,000, in Britain's North American colonies, there were roughly 500,000 black people, with about 460,000 of them enslaved.

Quaker Philadelphia was the heart of early eighteenth-century abolitionism. Benjamin Franklin was among that city's early abolitionists. Anthony Benezet was another. "How many of those who distinguish themselves as Advocates of Liberty remain insensible," Benezet wrote in a 1766 pamphlet, "to the treatment of thousands and tens of thousands of our fellow men, who . . . are at this very time kept in the most deplorable state of slavery."

By the mid-1770s, Boston was the center of abolition as well as revolution. "No country can be called free where there is one slave," declared James Swan, a Boston merchant who had participated in the Boston Tea Party.

"It has always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me," wrote Abigail Adams, in the summer of 1774, to her husband, John, "to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have." By "we" Abigail was referring to the American colonies--not the Adams family, for they were not slaveholders. When Abigail wrote this letter, she was at home in Braintree, Massachusetts. John was in Philadelphia, at the First Continental Congress, where representatives from the colonies (except for Georgia) were meeting to discuss their grievances against Britain and ways to get them remedied.

By the spring of 1775, armed revolt seemed the only remedy to many. On March 23, at a convention in Richmond, Virginia, Patrick Henry, a slaveholder, raised the American battle cry with "Give me liberty or give me death!" By then, having anticipated trouble, the British had increased their troops in Boston. These troops were under the command of General Thomas Gage, who was also Royal Governor of Massachusetts.

New England towns and villages had been preparing for war since the winter of 1774. Weapons and gunpowder had been stored. Militiamen were armed and ready, as were Minutemen, an elite militia that could be "ready in a minute" and were organized after the Boston Tea Party. By April 1775, there was a growing number of Patriots ready to do battle against Britain--and with colonists who sided with the mother country, the Loyalists, also known as Tories.

In April 1775, British intelligence learned that a secret meeting in Concord of the illegal Massachusetts Congress had determined to establish an army. On April 18, General Gage ordered troops to proceed to Concord to seize all weapons and ammunition. An advance guard was also sent to Lexington because of similar rumors about an insurrection there.

As British soldiers left by boat across Back Bay late on the night of April 18, two signal lamps ("One if by land, two if by sea") were hung in the steeple of the Old North Church. The printer and silversmith Paul Revere was silently rowed across the Charles River, which was being watched by a heavily armed British warship. Once on shore, Revere mounted one of the fastest horses in the colony to warn first Lexington and then Concord that the British were coming.

In Lexington, Revere, by then joined by two other couriers, was briefly stopped by a British patrol, to whom he supplied "information," with a gun to his head. Armed with Revere's "information," the British patrol told their commanders that at least five hundred Minutemen were waiting on Lexington Green.

The several hundred British soldiers who approached the green early the next morning found a motley army of seventy-seven militiamen. The British Major Pitcairn ordered his troops not to fire and told the Americans to drop their weapons and

disperse. Lexington's militia, led by Captain John Parker, was not eager for battle, either. But just as Parker gave the order to withdraw, someone's musket fired (whether American or British is unknown). Scattered shots from both sides followed that first mysterious shot. Eight Americans died and nine were wounded before the shooting stopped.

Prince Easterbrooks, a Lexington slave, was one of the Americans who fought in Captain Parker's company in that first battle of the Revolution--a battle that lasted about fifteen minutes. Easterbrooks was also in the next quick (about five minutes) fight later that same morning: the Battle of Concord.

Entering Concord without resistance at around eight o'clock in the morning, the British found some four hundred Minutemen waiting at North Bridge. There's no mystery as to who fired first here: the British. The Patriots' return fire became known as the "shot heard round the world."

Three British and two Americans were killed before the Americans retreated, with many others from both sides wounded. Prince Easterbrooks, who was among the wounded, was not the only black Massachusetts militiaman defending North Bridge that day. The others included Peter Salem, of Framingham, who had been freed from slavery to enlist; Samuel Craft, of Newton; Caesar Ferrit and his son John, of Natick; and men known only by first names--Pompy, of Braintree (now Quincy), and Prince, of Brookline. Another black Patriot was Lemuel Haynes, who would become the first black ordained Congregational minister in America.

From the Hardcover edition.

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What People are saying about this

John Le Carre
A compulsive and humbling history of nobility in the face of American prejudice, and courage in the face of America's enemies. Buckley writes with grace and authority -- and an almost unearthly restraint.
Joseph Galloway
A monumental work of love and scholarship. American Patriots fills a large gap in the history of our country. Buckley documents, with great skill and heart, the contribution of black American heroes in all of our nation's wars.
—(Joseph Galloway, author of We Were Soldiers Once and Young)
Tom Brokaw
Gail Buckley has given us a powerful account of a long and shamefully overlooked part of American military history—the heroic efforts of African-Americans to serve honorably and courageously in the armed forces when they were subjected to the worst kinds of racism. The full story is at once uplifting and deeply disturbing. We should all be grateful to Gail for bringing us these stories—and to the people about whom she writes for their determined patriotism.
Mark Bowden
There is no more central thread in American history than the struggle of African-Americans to achieve freedom, equality, and dignity, and nowhere has it been more poignantly fought than in uniform. American Patriots gathers in one place the record of black American soldiers and sailors who for centuries heroically served a nation that despised them. With their courage, they lifts is all up. Buckley has written a fascinating, stirring and important book.
—(Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down)
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Gail Buckley's American Patriots unveils a forgotten but essential strand in the fabric of American history. This fine book recalls the bravery and sacrifice of black soldiers who believed in the ultimate promise of American life—and fought and died for a nation that systematically denied them that promise. American Patriots is a noble work of recovered memory.
David H. Hackworth
Gail Buckley tells a gripping story about an unsung group of American heroes and the America for which they fought, from the time of the redcoats to Saddam Hussein. In Korea and Vietnam I fought alongside the sort of warriors who make up her story. They were America's best. At last their story is told and told brilliantly. should be required reading for soldier and civilian alike.
—(Col. David H. Hackworth, author of About Face)

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Meet the Author

Gail Buckley’s family history, The Hornes, was a national bestseller. She is a journalist and daughter of the legendary singer-actress Lena Horne.
Tonya Bolden is the author of Rock of Ages: A Tribute to the Black Church and Tell All the Children Our Story: Memories and Mementos of Being Young and Black in America.

From the Hardcover edition.

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