Negro Combat Troops


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Item#: 125223 price:$1,250.00

Negro Combat Troops


HEYWOOD, Chester D. Negro Combat Troops in the World War. The Story of the 371st Infantry. Worcester, Mass.: Commonwealth, (1928). Octavo, original pictorial tan cloth. $1250.

First edition of one of the very few published records of African Americans in combat in WWI, authored by the white captain of the 371st, with photographic frontispiece, two large folding battle maps and many in-text illustrations, a handsome copy in original cloth.

By the time of WWI, African Americans had "fought in the Revolution and all subsequent wars, but the sum of their sacrifices still had not brought full citizenship" (Nalty, Strength for the Fight, 107). Given the French were in desperate need of troops, "General Pershing wrote in his memoirs, 'I consented to send temporarily four colored Infantry regiments'… [this] allowed him simultaneously to fulfill his pledge to provide the French with American combat regiments when the U.S. entered the war and to free himself from the dilemma of how to use the African American fighting regiments… an act that cast African American troops as outside the U.S. Army and, in a symbolic sense, outside of the nation itself" (Williams, Torchbearers, 119-120).

Negro Combat Troops, authored by a white captain of the 371st Infantry, is one of the very few published records of African Americans in combat. While its author echoes the racism of the era, the work documents key actions, such as the decision to join the 371st and the African American 372nd infantry together with the French 333rd "to reinforce the ranks of General Goybet's 157th Division… Toward the end of September 1918 the regiment moved up to Champagne to take part in the great Meuse-Argonne offensive. Initially the 371st was held in reserve but after two days of fighting, it moved up between a French and Moroccan division…. By September 28 the regiment had pushed forward to a depth of nearly 4.5 miles before facing a determined German counter-attack. Encountering poisonous gas for the first time, coupled with an artillery barrage and frenzied German assaults, the regiment held, but at a high cost: casualties, dead and wounded, reached close to 1000 men. The regiment retired from the front in the first week of October and was sent to the Vosges area. With the war drawing to a close roughly one month later, this marked the last of the combat the men saw. For their actions in Champagne during September 26-October 7, nearly 200 men received either the Croix de Guerre or the Distinguished Service Cross, more than any regiment in the 93rd Division" (Sutherland, African Americans at War I:395).

"Black America had gone to war in the hope of earning equality" (Nalty, 123). But when Black veterans returned home in 1919, they "fought back in running battles with vigilante whites… that year also saw a hike in the number of lynchings; at least 16 veterans were lynched between November 1918 and the end of 1920, some still in uniform…. as one African American newspaper claimed, 'for valor displayed in the recent war, it seems that the Negro's particular decoration is to be the 'double cross'" (Das, ed., Race, Empire, 290-291). With photographic frontispiece of the "Monument to the Officers and Men of the 371st Infantry." Map and illustrations by D. Lester Dickson. Appendices with the names of those in the 371st killed or wounded in action, and those awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and the Croix de Guerre. Without rare dust jacket.

Interior fine, trace of rubbing to bright original cloth. A very scarce about-fine copy.

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