"THE DEMOCRACY FOR WHICH THE MEN WERE SUPPOSED TO BE FIGHTING WAS IGNORED AND RIDICULED": FIRST EDITION OF AMERICAN NEGRO SOLDIER WITH THE RED HAND OF FRANCE, 1920, EXCEPTIONAL FIRST-HAND ACCOUNT OF WWI BLACK SOLDIERS IN AMERICA'S SEGREGATED 372D INFANTRY—FIGHTING UNDER FRENCH COMMAND IN THE RED HAND DIVISION
MASON, Monroe and FURR, Arthur. The American Negro Soldier with the Red Hand of France. Boston: Cornhill, (1920). Octavo, original red cloth. $3200.
First edition of the very scarce contemporary history of African American soldiers fighting in WWI alongside the famed "Red Hand," celebrated as heroes by the French and awarded the Croix de Guerrre with Palm, with frontispiece and six full-page illustrations including map, in original cloth.
The 372d Colored Infantry Regiment of WWI was in the 93rd Division's 4th regiment, which served in France under French command. It was attached, with the 370th, 371st and the French 333rd, to French General Goybet's 157th Division, famed as the "Red Hand." This very scarce contemporary account vividly describes the "conditions under which these Black defenders of Democracy fared… all were made to feel the sting of segregation" in the U.S. military. In April 1918, during the 372d's first days in France, the white commander promptly allowed all "white officers to curtain off the majority of the officers' barracks from the African American officers" (Sutherland, African Americans at War V.1:285). Similar orders noted herein were those forbidding Black soldiers from visiting "saloons and cafes visited by the white officers. In a word, the democracy for which the men were supposed to be fighting was ignored and ridiculed… the French, knowing of the unblemished record of these troops, could not understand America's attitude toward her Black troops and earnestly requested that several of these units be assigned to them for combat training."
In September 1918 the "four regiments of the 93rd were together for the first time… [and] helped capture Bussy Farm and Trières Farm," resulting in the deaths of 123 enlisted men. In fighting "with the 157th Division in the Arnould sector of Alsace… six men from the 372d won Distinguished Service Crosses… when the armistice came on November 11 the regiment was sent to Granges-sur-Vologne, where it received a warm and grateful welcome from the local inhabitants. The French government awarded the whole regiment the Croix de Guerre with Palm, in addition to the regiment's individual awards, which included 151 Croix de Guerre and 21 Distinguished Service Crosses" (Sutherland, 286). When the French commanding general paid tribute, he stated: "The Red Hand sign of the Division, thanks to you, became a bloody hand… you have well avenged our glorious dead.' The U.S. command never made any such acknowledgment" (Ebony Doughboys).
At news of the war's end, the authors note celebrations across French villages, where people "devoted so much attention the Black heroes that an attempt was made to prevent their socializing with the young French girls, who were quite carried away with the American Negroes." Back home in America, however, Black soldiers faced whites who "lay in wait… at railroad stations and ripped off their uniforms… a sore point among whites was news that Negroes serving abroad were treated well by European whites. Stories had filtered home about… romances with white women… during the so-called Red Summer of 1919… 77 Black men were lynched, at least ten of them veterans in uniform" (Hervieux, Forgotten, 105-6). First edition, first printing: with no statement of edition or printings on the copyright page. As issued without dust jacket. Not in Blockson.
Text fine, mild toning, trace of soiling to original cloth. A very elusive near-fine copy.