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Harlem Hellfighters - Essay Example

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Prior to and during the war, racial segregation was rife in America, where black people were treated as minority. This situation was, however, bound to change with the…
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Harlem Hellfighters
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Download file to see previous pages In this era, the 369th, a military organization for black people was formed in Harlem. This remarkable group fought for the French in World War I and helped the French defeat their enemies. It is this success that led to a dilemma within government quarters on what to do with the black soldiers during World War II. The Negroes were seen as inferior to the white combatants, apparently because the former were lacking in intelligence and discipline (Graebner & Waller 1996, p.194). Majority of white people were opposed to the inclusion of black men in the U.S army arguing that the blacks would fail miserably in the military and would only bring shame to America.
Nonetheless, as a result of mounting public pressure, President Roosevelt was compelled to include black people in the military. The 369th was called up to duty in the Antiaircraft. For the black people in Harlem, 369th was not only fighting for the honor of their country, but also for that of the black people in America. The success of 369th would represent the success of the black community in America. 369th spent a year in training at Oswego and came out as professionally trained soldiers.
On their mission to Hawaii, 369th encountered racist ideas such as; black men had tails and that a relationship with a black man would lead to a baby with a tail. The 369th also had to deal with incidents of fellow white soldiers getting drunk and insulting black men. According to Graebner & Waller (1996, p. 197) the latter would physically fight back for equality and honor. Some street fights had fatal consequences, as it happened on two occasions when white soldiers died in a street fight. The black men involved in the two incidents were, however, acquitted on grounds that they were fighting for their honor. In the military, the 369 was able to command respect even from junior white soldiers who were forced to salute their “black seniors”.
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