Tag Archives: History

From Harlem to the Rhine in World War I: In France there is no color line, or, African American History IS American History

Update: WordPress found me this article about James Reese Europe,  one of the Harlem Hellfighters, on blackmail4u.com. Europe was an eminent musician and New York City club owner who played an important part in nourishing African American music and culture. I love synchronicity! A link to a video of one of Lt Europe’s compositions, On Patrol in No Man’s Land, is embedded at the end of my post. Thank You Blackmail4u Special Delivery!!

My article:

I have the coolest book in my stacks. Well, I have a lot of the coolest books in my stacks. But I sat down with this one today. From Harlem to the Rhine: The Story of New York’s Colored Volunteers by Arthur W. Little, copyright 1936. Little created this detailed and well written history from his first hand experiences, as detailed in his own war diary.

The author details the abuse and threat the African American soldiers suffered on their own American home soil before they even left for the war. Little goes on to catalog in clear and unexaggerated prose these soldiers’ bravery, resourcefulness, great strength of character, senses of humor and musical talents. They endured great privation and danger within the warzone and without. They served our country with the greatest of bravery and honor.

The “Men of Bronze”, Harlem’s Hell Fighters, one of the great fighting units in the the shock division of Gourard’s Fourth Army of France, are well represented here and I am grateful. Many black and white photo illustrations are included, courtesy of Major Gourard himself and of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The book is indexed and contains appendices of letters and military communication.

I consider From Harlem to the Rhine a primary source on World War I history, African American History and a deeply affecting book. Our popular / mass media and education system still has not gotten the memo that white Europeans were not the only key players in our history and culture.  It chaps my book loving a– er, my book loving cheeks. The only thing I wish is that we had narrative from the soldiers themselves. Works like this are ever so important to help remedy the ‘colorblindness’ that erases the immense contributions offered and trauma endured by our brothers and sisters of nonwhite ethnicity since the birth of this nation and continuing today. We are not color blind. We are colluding with the whiteout. Books like this can help us right the wrongs done by our dominant and oppressive culture.

 

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Filed under African, American, Antiquarian, France, military, World War 1

Military History January; Headcount February?

Happy New Year!

In January, 89% of Wine Country Books sales were military history books. H’m, wonder what social currents are at play at this time? Train! Prepare! Be ready!

Our first sale of February is a book of essays analyzing the way African Americans have historically been portrayed in photography.

‘Tis the season when we remember that the history and current reality of our nation, our communities, our personal lives, rests on rather poor representation for Americans who did not win the demographic lottery.

One of the low risk – high yield things we can do to ease the divisions and harm done in American society is actively seek out narratives from people we don’t hear from or see much in mainstream media.

It goes hand in hand with doing the headcount, another easy step those of us distressed about injustice can take to start getting acquainted with the who what why.

Caveat! Diversity does NOT mean equality. I am just talking about gathering information over time.

I know the in-person headcount is kind of tough when many of us live in bubbles of people pretty much exclusively just like us.  That is our bellwether that something is wrong.

Perhaps we have “that one friend” or coworker who is in a wheelchair, or aged, or of African or other nonwhite descent, or dealing with loss, chronic illness, mental health issues, gay, name it. Here’s why this is not as helpful as we might think. That one unique person cannot, does not, and probably is sick to death of people asking / expecting them to, embody or speak for the experience of the larger group.

Perhaps we were raised to see people as people. Perhaps we ourselves have struggled with poverty, with abuse by institutions or persons of power in our lives, or even attack or abuse by people from one of those groups. But humanity is humanity, and we have forgotten that, somehow, and regressed into biologically programmed behaviors without examining those behaviors’ impact on ourselves and those in other walks of life.

So you can do the headcount in a low risk, high yield way, too.

Begin to notice – how much of the news and entertainment we consume features authors, characters, or narratives about and created by people who are different from us?

If a particular group- people over 50. Women (in leadership roles or college or pro athletics, this is big). People of native, indigenous, African or Latin descent. People with chronic illness, a difference in processing or physical difference, differently oriented people- is x% of the population of a city or state or nation,  shouldn’t they be getting, at minimum, x% of representation, jobs, publication, money in the media we consume, the people we hire, the people we elect to represent us, the businesses we buy from?

It takes time to absorb. And it is easy to misstep. This is because cognitive dissonance  – constantly moving goalposts regarding okay / not okay, constant difference between the dominant narrative and what individuals experience – is the rule, the very foundation of American society for so long. Divided, a few of us stand and thrive, and the rest of us fall. And some of us have been falling generation after generation after generation.

Watch. Read. Notice. Question- do your research. You’d be surprised how much you can learn just by typing your question into Google. I got the best stuff, for example, when I typed in “Why aren’t these jokes funny?”

Synthesize or assimilate information for yourself. Take your time. Best wishes and happy reading.

 

 

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Filed under 1940s, African, American, Antiquarian, military, social currents