"THE BEST KNOWN AFRICAN AMERICAN UNIT OF WWI": FIRST EDITION OF FROM HARLEM TO THE RHINE, THE HISTORY OF THE "HARLEM HELLFIGHTERS," SIGNED BY THE AUTHOR, WITH OVER 30 ILLUSTRATIONS, INCLUDING IMAGES OF THEIR WELCOME HOME TO NEW YORK WITH A HISTORIC PARADE UP FIFTH AVENUE
(WORLD WAR I) LITTLE, Arthur W. From Harlem to the Rhine. The Story of New York's Colored Volunteers. New York: Covici Friede, 1936. Octavo, original blue cloth, photographic endpapers, original dust jacket. $1250.
First edition of Colonel Little's history of the pioneering WWI African American combat unit, famed as the "Harlem Hellfighters," signed by the author, a white officer of the regiment, on the half title with the inscription in an unidentified hand, "To I— S— with the compliments of the author, December 5th, 1939," featuring over 30 photographic illustrations including frontispiece of Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts, the "first American Privates in the Army of France to receive the Croix de Guerre," in scarce original dust jacket.
Begun as a National Guard Infantry Regiment, "manned by black enlisted soldiers with both black and white officers, the 369th Infantry Regiment, popularly known as the 'Harlem Hellfighters,' was the best known African American unit of WWI… Spending over six months in combat, perhaps the longest of any American unit in the war, the 369th suffered approximately 1500 casualties" (BlackPast). In his slave narrative, "Frederick Douglass had likened his master to a snake; now a rattlesnake adorned the black veterans' uniforms—their insignia." On coming home, they were welcomed with a parade up Fifth Avenue. It was "the first opportunity the City of New York had to greet a full regiment of returning doughboys, black or white" (Gates, Who Were the Harlem Hellfighters?). Here Col. Little, the white chief of Staff to Col. Hayward, the white commander, offers the first complete story of Harlem Hellfighters, including training in South Carolina where they faced violent racist attacks. In his account of the NY parade, he writes that the people "did not give us their welcome because ours was a regiment of colored soldiers. They did not give us their welcome in spite of ours being a regiment of colored soldiers. They greeted us that day from hearts filled with gratitude and with pride." First edition, first printing: with no statement of edition or printing on the copyright page. Photographic endpapers of the NY parade from The Sun; containing frontispiece of Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts, the "first American Privates in the Army of France to receive the Croix de Guerre," with 30 full-page black-and-white photographic illustrations; regiment's insignia of a rattlesnake on the front board.
Interior fresh, trace of dampstaining to front board; light edge-wear to scarce dust jacket. Near-fine.