Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers: Perspectives on the African American Militia and Volunteers, 1865-1917

By Bruce A. Glasrud | Go to book overview

A Place in the Parade
CITIZENSHIP, MANHOOD, AND AFRICAN
AMERICAN MEN IN THE ILLINOIS
NATIONAL GUARD, 1870–1917

Eleanor L. Hannah

Between the end of the Civil War and the onset of United States involvement in World War I, African American men overcame great difficulties to maintain their military presence in the Illinois National Guard (ING). African American men in Illinois, acting on the strength of and faith in the ability of military service to confirm and preserve their claims to equality, citizenship, and manhood, created military companies whenever and wherever they could find the numerical strength and community support to do so. They created short-lived company after short-lived company and finally achieved institutional stability with the formation of what would become the Ninth Battalion ING in Chicago in 1890. That battalion served in Cuba during and after the Spanish-American War as the Eighth Illinois Infantry United States Volunteers (USN), solidifying their once-tenuous position within the ING. Later, the same organization formed the core of the Thirty-third Infantry American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), one of the four African American regiments sent to serve with the French army in 1917. Their accomplishment is all the more remarkable at a time when the limited gains of Reconstruction were rapidly being lost and racial tension in Illinois was increasing.1 The record of their efforts is a testament to the importance that African American guardsmen and the African American community in Illinois placed on a continuing state military presence for African American men.

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