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

By Christine Knauer | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Stepping Up the Fight

Grant Reynolds returned to his civilian life earlier than he had expected. During his nearly three years of service as a black chaplain in the army, Reynolds not only gave spiritual guidance to African American soldiers, but also fought against segregation and discrimination in various stateside military bases. Known as a “troublemaker,” he was forced to leave the army and voluntarily left the NAACP. Nevertheless, his fight for civil rights hardly ended with his service, as his experiences in the military had made him more frustrated and militant. Like the soldiers he advised during his time as a chaplain in the army, he was “a man come of age” who expected “a new definition of the American ideals of liberty, justice and equality to come out of the present war.”1 As soldiers returned home, militancy or at least activism was growing. Many veterans did not intend to go “back to business as usual,” but they wanted to “change this nation so that there’s more equality than there is now.”2 Reynolds did not resume his work as a pastor, but began to study law at Columbia Law School. As an active member of the Republican Party, he had publicly supported and spoken out in favor of Republican governor Thomas E. Dewey’s run against President Roosevelt in the 1944 presidential race. Reynolds believed Roosevelt had betrayed African Americans, in particular black soldiers, while Dewey supported the African Americans’ fight for full civil rights. Reynolds’s allegiance to the New York governor paid off. Shortly after the war, Dewey appointed the fierce army veteran state commissioner of correction.

In 1946, Reynolds ran against Democratic representative Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., in Harlem’s Twenty-Second District. In a fiercely fought campaign to win the African American vote, Reynolds argued that Powell had neglected the needs and interests of the constituents of the Harlem district.

-55-

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Fighting for Respect 13
  • Chapter 2 - Coming Home 33
  • Chapter 3 - Stepping Up the Fight 55
  • Chapter 4 - Mass Civil Disobedience 82
  • Chapter 5 - Truman’s Order 112
  • Chapter 6 - A Country They Never Knew 130
  • Chapter 7 - Black Men at War 163
  • Chapter 8 - A Mixed Army 195
  • Epilogue 224
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms 231
  • Notes 235
  • Index 329
  • Acknowledgments 339
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