tv The Great War and the Culture of the New Negro CSPAN June 4, 2017 8:45pm-9:01pm EDT
things aren't going to just fall interest place. -- just fall into place. >> thank you all for coming, please give a huge round of applause. [applause] >> our visit to ueugene oregon coins with local author mark whalen as he discussed the culture and lives of from photos in world war i in this book the great war and the culture of the new negro. >> the name of my book is the great they're culture of the new negro. i decided to write about thaws i was very interested in world war i and -- i'm from england
and the kind of literature of world war i is very famous, wild widely rather, taught in schools. that walt not tour for literature of world war i in the united states. one of the real gaps in that story was the literature to which had been produced by african-american writers. so i was drawn to that, figuring out what kind ofs african-americans were telling about the grate war, how african-american writers thought beside how it i impacted race in america. so african-americans were caught up in america's entry into cold war 1 just as all americans were. and african-americans volunteers. they bought liberty bostons and volunteered to serve in the in military, volunteered to serve as aid workers and nurses, and often with mixed effects.
they -- woodrow wilson said that america was entering world war i to make the world save for democracy but america for african-americans didn't feel very safe or democratic. so very unsure about going to fight for a political principles overseas they were just not receiving at home. so there were those kind of debates. but nonetheless, the major -- a large portion of african-americaned decided the best course of action was to serve, was to do the best they could in the hope that the service, that patriotism, that kind of energy, would be a kind of bargaining chip in a post war reconstruction, would gain them greater rights and be proof to the america at large about the value of their contributions and of their investment in the national project.
the earliest kind of texas that it looked at was a little while after american entry. so some of the first stories african-americans are kind of considering is whether -- is what the attitude to service should be. pretty soon people are invested in wanting to serve. they wanted -- one of the earliest controversies was whether there would be african-american officers. so, it was decided pretty early that the military would be segue degree getted. so, black and white units would established separately. there were two black combat divisions that went across and although they were officered by white americans, in the ranks, it was only african-americans that were serving. for a while it was a controversy about whether africa officers would be commissioned or whether all of the staff officers in those divisions would be white.
there was a kind of controversy, political controversy, the black's were heavily involved in agitating for black officers, which is a difficult decision because this is a segregated unit and didn't want to seem to be endorsing segregation, but at the same time they saw this as an opportunity for kind of black male leadership, which is incredibly important to the politics of the time. much more limited avenues for the training and demonstration of that than there would be today. so, politically being an officer, being someone who had experienced combat and had led men in combat, then as now, is a very politically empowering identity to have. so, that presses -- was very interested in agitating for that officer training to take place and it did.
a camp was opened up in demanipulates, iowa -- des moines, iowa, and one class graduated 700 officers in the middle of 1917, there were two very calamitous event. one pre-existing black unit in the army were garrisoned in houston and they received so much harassment that one evening they took up arms and went into the town and got involved no a shootout with local residents rs which involved about 150 of the soldiers were court-martialed and 13 being executed throw days after their trial. there was also a huge, really race kind of pilgrim in east st. louis where a black workers who hat come up to east st. louis because of the new
shortage of white labor because of the war. so it as wind of drawing african-american workers north from the south spokane industrial areas like east tv st. louis, and bakery the black population was tyrannized and some died in what was called a race riot but was really targeted vigilante action against the black community. the summer of 1917 saw two horrendous moments moments of v. they were wasn't to be fighting for freedom in france and in belgium, but at the same time they were being terrorized at home, and also white politicians were suddenly getting a lot more nervous about training a lot of
african-american men in warfare because they had seen what happened in houston that -- the war worried this would take place on a huge sale and many training camps were in the south and they were worried this would happen across the country. these are the area kind of issues that were taking place, and as the war got going. >> only about half of the african-americans that served did good overseas. that was true for all american troops. and so of about 400,000 african-american troops to be enlisted, 200,000 made the trip over, and this becomes one of the most important things for the writers, is to think about what cosmo poll continue international experience does. this was something which really bothered white racists, and at
home, you know, southern politicians-mississippi senators said african-american troop wood come home white-women ruined, that the attention they would have from white women would forever unfit them to live in the south again. and there was an uptibble in racial violence when african-americans got home. 1919 is called the red summer for the amount of race riots that took place in that year. 83 lynchings took place that year and 16 of them were of servicemen still in uniform who came home and often these whites in the communities even a sight of an african-american in uniform, especially if he had an overseas service badge on, was enraging. so a real year of conflict when african-americans came home but they were welcomed in their home
communes. in terms of the effects of the war in terms of reform hogue to how it caused the american at -- attitude. one newspaper said as a regard for service the african-americans have been award the double cross. this idea that they had served, they had -- many had died, and they had undergone enormous hardship in -- as part of the service, and the long-term consequences would be very little change, and they had wanted the kind of restoration of the franchise in the south, much stricter enforcement of antisegregation laws in the north, a kind of revised access to skilled trades and a kind of
entered racism in the labor union. most of this just didn't occur. so, there was a feeling of disillusionment in african-american society on the one hand because some of the immediate political gains they hoped for just did not materialize. from my perspective, one of the major impacts was cultural. so, in involved a kind of -- turning out of perspectives to other parts of the world in some cases, so there were new connections forged and with african-american intellectuals related to the sends in the war and new assessortiveness to african-american communities which carried forward. phillip randolph, who later would organize the march on washington, he got his start at
a journalist and in world war i he ran one of the most radical african-american magazines, the messenger in world war i, and a number of civil rights loaders served in that war, too. so it wasn't the case in the 1920s was like the 1950's or '60s of an era 0 monument progress in civil rights but laid down marker and sewed the seed for radicalism in different ways. i discovered it was a war which again not for the first time posed this kind of dilemma about serving your country which so poorly served you, and the kind of ambivalence which attend to that.
but also an amazing moment when political losses die morizing experiences -- demoralizing experience through the action of culture, literature, photography, music, and those things could be built interest a culture in a way which was trying to salvage messages of hope, messages of resilience, of ingenuity and imagination, and of courage, which would be important contributions to that culture at large. so, it was how writers and artists, et cetera, were really setting down a legacy of african-american ability, of african-american service, which would be useful for later
generations. so a very mixed complex, legacy in some ways and didn't want to sugar coat the disappointments which happened the war but wanted wanted to take forward a pride and a education from what being involved in such a modern, international war, could be for the next generation. >> here's a look at the current best-selling nonfiction books:
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