Academic journal article Military Review

Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights

Academic journal article Military Review

Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights

Article excerpt

LET US FIGHT AS FREE MEN: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights

Christine Knauer, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 2014, 352 pages

In Let Us Fight As Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights, Christine Knauer, a postdoctoral research fellow at Eberhard Karls University of Tubingen, Germany, thoroughly investigates the long, challenging, humiliating, and ultimately triumphant road to integration of the United States Armed Forces. Over eight chapters, from the Korean trenches to Capitol Hill, Knauer examines the struggle by relying on personal accounts, archives, editorials, columns, and letters, which poignantly reveal some of the truest feelings and motives of our political and military luminaries. The Korean War and the segregated South serve as the military and domestic panoramas. These lenses provide unique insight into the intersection of Jim Crowism and the military. The book's only shortcoming, which Knauer concedes, is the limited narrative and space given to women. They are peripheral players; this is a story about masculinity.

Consider the moment: America, the purveyor of global democracy, fighting in Korea--even as it struggles with its own civil rights problems at home. Hypocritically, the United States expected black men to fight for the country while it simultaneously upheld a caste system in the South. This dichotomy enabled a white-hot political, social, and ideological struggle, pitting the white power structure, which held stereotypes and negative sentiments toward blacks, against a marginalized citizenry. Knauer presents the confrontation in stunning detail and clarity. You witness a craven Harry Truman politicking for votes and reelection; the high-powered military brass--mainly those in the Army--steadfast in their opposition to integration; the civil rights activists and pols prodding the system for change; and the press--both mainstream and minor outlets--lobbing editorial salvos with the skill and precision of artillerymen sparing no target or opportunity. …

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