HELL FIGHTERS: African American Soldiers in World War I by Michael L. Cooper
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HELL FIGHTERS: African American Soldiers in World War I

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A look at the double struggle of black soldiers in WW I--against the enemy abroad, and against the prejudice that resided closer to home. Cooper shows the wide gulf between these soldiers' heroism on the front and their treatment behind the lines in the first world war. One New York unit, described by its commander as ""a self-made regiment, started without traditions, without education, without friends,"" received rifles only after the government was tricked into supplying them, and was not allowed to march in a farewell parade before embarking for France. Cooper vigorously describes the exploits of the 93rd Division, which fought under French command and earned the name ""Hell Fighters,"" noting the harsh experiences of noncombatants and the inglorious 92nd Division in less detail; besides its many decorations, the 93rd did indeed parade upon its return to New York, marching up Fifth Avenue and ""through Harlem singing and laughing."" Enhanced by a sheaf of black-and-white photographs, plus side essays on the Houston Riot, the forced retirement of Charles Young, the US's highest ranking African-American at the beginning of the war, and other topics, this makes an absorbing companion to Catherine Reef's Black Fighting Men (1994) or a lead-in to Cooper's social history of the postwar years, Bound for the Promised Land (1995).

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
Page count: 65pp
Publisher: Lodestar