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Harlem's Hell Fighters: The African-American 369th Infantry in World War I
     

Harlem's Hell Fighters: The African-American 369th Infantry in World War I

by Stephen L. Harris, Rod Paschall (Foreword by)
 

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When the United States entered World War I in 1917, thousands of African-American men volunteered to fight for a country that granted them only limited civil rights. Many from New York City joined the 15th N.Y. Infantry, a National Guard regiment later designated the 369th U.S. Infantry. Led by mostly inexperienced white and black officers, these men not only

Overview


When the United States entered World War I in 1917, thousands of African-American men volunteered to fight for a country that granted them only limited civil rights. Many from New York City joined the 15th N.Y. Infantry, a National Guard regiment later designated the 369th U.S. Infantry. Led by mostly inexperienced white and black officers, these men not only received little instruction at their training camp in South Carolina but were frequent victims of racial harassment from both civilians and their white comrades. Once in France, they initially served as laborers, all while chafing to prove their worth as American soldiers.

Then they got their chance. The 369th became one of the few U.S. units that American commanding general John J. Pershing agreed to let serve under French command. Donning French uniforms and taking up French rifles, the men of the 369th fought valiantly alongside French Moroccans and held one of the widest sectors on the Western Front. The entire regiment was awarded the Croix de Guerre, the French government’s highest military honor. Stephen L. Harris’s accounts of the valor of a number of individual soldiers make for exciting reading, especially that of Henry Johnson, who defended himself against an entire German squad with a large knife. After reading this book, you will know why the Germans feared the black men of the 369th and why the French called them “hell fighters.”

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The story of James Reese Europe and the Hell Fighters is one of the best I know, and here it is told superbly. It is a story of bravery and courage, creativity and controversy, tragedy and transcendence. It reminds us, in nearly every line, of the extraordinary contributions of African Americans have made-not just to American life, but to the very essence of what it means to be an American."

"Very good . . . Useful not only to students of African-American history, but also to the general student of the American role in the Great War."

"The story of ‘Harlem’s Hell Fighters’ is an important piece of history, both for America and the world."

Library Journal
In his new book, Harris (Duty, Honor, Priviledge) does more than provide the history of a World War I fighting unit; he provides a larger social history as well. Harris focuses on the prewar struggle to create the New York National Guard's first African American unit-a struggle that involved many of the leaders of Harlem's African American community. It also involved such disparate elements as Tammany Hall and jazz music, which the unit's bandleader brought to Europe, as well as a people trying to gain the right to fight in the cause of freedom. Unfortunately, even as its world-class regimental band entertained towns and troops across France and its soldiers waited impatiently to get to the front, the unit faced incredible prejudice from Southern whites and other army units. The 369th was finally sent to fight as part of the French army, where, ironically, it found acceptance, respect, and glory, eventually winning the Croix de Guerre. Moving to the syncopated beat of a jazz tune, this is a story of one great dream that ends not in the trenches but backstage in a Boston theater. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.-Brian K. DeLuca, Avon Lake P.L., OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781574886351
Publisher:
Potomac Books
Publication date:
03/31/2005
Pages:
356
Sales rank:
619,511
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.69(d)

Meet the Author

Stephen L. Harris is the author of Duty, Honor, Privilege: New York’s Silk Stocking Regiment and the Breaking of the Hindenburg Line (Brassey’s, Inc., 2001), Harlem’s Hell Fighters: The African-American 369th Infantry in World War I (Brassey’s, Inc., 2003), and Duffy's War: Fr. Francis Duffy, Wild Bill Donovan, and the Irish Fighting 69th in World War I (Potomac Books, 2006). He lives in Weybridge, Vermont.

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