Etobon Project Blog - Journal posts are listed below
Monday
Feb242014

Harlem Hellfighters: African-American Soldiers Serving Under French Command

This article appeared in the journal France-Amérique. As part of my work translating the history of France and America during World War I and II, I wanted to share this story with my readers.

 

Gaétan Mathieu

February 19 2-14

France-Amérique

 

Four thousand five hundred African-American soldiers, victims of segregation in the United States Army, fought under the French flag during World War I. Called the “Harlem Hellfighters,” these soldiers showed exceptional bravery in combat. Their influence on France wasn’t limited to the battlefield. They are now credited with introducing jazz to France!

“They were swing dancing in the street. Their smiles were brighter than the sun…New York was finally giving them a reception worthy of these dark-skinned heroes.” So wrote a New York Herald Tribune journalist in 1919, describing the triumphant parade down 5th Avenue of 3,000 African-American soldiers of the U. S. Army’s 369th infantry regiment. Several thousand people watched the parade, crowding onto the sidewalks. “White America had never given such a warm and sincere welcome to black men…Racial lines were forgotten for the moment. The blood they shed in France was just as red as anyone else’s.”