THE RIGHT TO FIGHT by Gerald Astor


A History of African Americans in the Military
Email this review


An all-encompassing chronicle of African-Americans’ struggles to serve in the armed forces of the US, by popular military historian Astor (The Mighty Eighth, 1997, etc). Beginning with the story of Crispus Attucks, who was killed in the Boston Massacre (and without whom no multicultural textbook is complete), Astor covers the full sweep of the American armed forces in peace and in war, with remarkable clarity and vigor and a degree of research that shows a mastery of military, social, and political history. Although the experiences of blacks in the Civil War has been well documented (and even popularized by Hollywood), the author’s account covers the essential details of those who fought for both North and South, and then moves on to look at their situation in the postwar Indian campaigns, the war with Spain, and the famous “Brownsville riot,” in which an entire battalion was expelled from the army after a racial disturbance in a Texas town. Astor’s work is aptly titled, considering, as it does, the struggle that African-Americans have had to wage to fight for a society that mistrusted their courage under fire. Surprisingly, the wars themselves don’t serve as the high points of the narrative; rather, they punctuate the story of grievous wrongs with moments of astonishing bravery and sacrifice—followed by only small gains as peace returned. Of particular poignance are the stories of the men who went to sea, only to be offered positions as “seagoing bellhops, chambermaids, and dishwashers,” and were then expelled from the navy when they publicized their plight in a major newspaper. Astor’s work is so broad, and his arguments so vital, that it’s a shame to give it a label as narrow as “military history.” This is a work of major importance in African-American history. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-89141-632-3
Page count: 576pp
Publisher: Presidio/Random
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998


NonfictionTERRIBLE TERRY ALLEN by Gerald Astor
by Gerald Astor
NonfictionTHE GREATEST WAR by Gerald Astor
by Gerald Astor
NonfictionTHE MIGHTY EIGHTH by Gerald Astor
by Gerald Astor


IndieBLACK OFFICER, WHITE NAVY by Reuben Keith  Green
by Reuben Keith Green