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

By Bruce A. Glasrud | Go to book overview

North Carolina’s
African American Regiment in
the Spanish-American War

Willard B. Gatewood, Jr.

from the beginning of the insurrection in Cuba in 1895, African Americans were sympathetic with the Cubans’ struggle against Spanish rule. The black press not only praised the exploits of the “black heroes” of the rebel cause but also emphasized the “racial affinity” between black Americans and the “colored population” of Cuba. Yet, as an armed conflict between the United States and Spain appeared more likely following the sinking of the Maine in February, 1898, African Americans were by no means unanimous in favoring a war of liberation in behalf of their oppressed “cousins” on the island. The rising tide of Jim Crowism and repression in the United States prompted some to oppose American intervention on the grounds that it would merely ensure the establishment of a rigid system of racial discrimination in Cuba; others objected to a military crusade in behalf of the oppressed Cubans until black citizens at home had been relieved of their oppression.1 A prominent African American editor summarized the latter view when he declared: “The Negro has no reason to fight for Cuba’s independence. He is opposed at home. He is as much in need of independence as Cuba is.”2

Whatever their misgivings about intervention in behalf of the “little brown brothers” by a nation so enamored of white supremacy, African Americans rallied to the flag once a state of war existed between Spain and the United States. Anti-interventionist utterances gave way to pronouncements about the black man’s Americanism and to descriptions of the role played by Crispus

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