Black Americans have played a vital role in America’s military history, from the Revolutionary War to present-day conflicts. However, their contributions have often been overlooked or downplayed in traditional narratives. As we celebrate Black History Month, it is essential to share the stories of Black American Veterans to recognize their achievements and sacrifices to ensure an enduring legacy.
Below is a recommended list of books about this important subject, highlighting works that share the stories of many while maintaining a close and personal eye on individuals. These texts offer a deep look into the experiences and accomplishments of Black American veterans and are sure to educate and inspire.
A captivating account of African American soldiers who risked their lives during the invasion of Europe, this title by historian Linda Hervieux covers both social and military history with new and emotional detail. Utilizing original interviews and buried military records, the book sheds light on the discrimination faced by African American soldiers during World War II, as well as the freedoms they discovered in England and Europe that fueled the civil rights movement upon their return. Despite their crucial role on D-Day, these men from the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion were overlooked and denied recognition for their valor. Read this vivid account of tension and bravery in the face of injustice to ensure that’s no longer the case.
In The Black Civil War Soldier, Deborah Willis explores the role of photography in shaping African American narratives of the Civil War. She offers a vibrant visual archive, paired with a close examination of the lives of Black Union soldiers and others involved in the struggle. With primary and archival materials rarely reproduced, this book presents a thorough yet intimate portrait of the resilient and powerful African American experience from the beginning of the Civil War to 1900. Here, audiences can explore the overwhelming, contradictory and comprehensive themes of love and longing, responsibility and fear, and commitment and patriotism.
As an anthology, this is an interwoven collection of articles from prominent scholars that build on each other to offer a new and more robust framework on the subject: the lives and legacy of African Americans in the US Army in the West following the American Civil War. Known as “Buffalo Soldiers” by the Cheyennes and Comanches of the Plains, the intrepid servicemen of the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry and Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Infantry find a rightful place in history here.
- Standing in Their Own Light: African American Patriots in the American Revolution by Judith L Van Buskirk
A study that covers the lives of the many African American patriots who served in the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary war and the burning ambiguity of freedom inherent in its legacy, Van Buskirk’s well-researched Standing in Their Own Light must be read. Her expert use of pension records, in particular, allows the lives of five hundred men practically forgotten to shine once more and find a recognized place in the historical struggle for independence on all terms.
- Glory in their Spirit: How Four Black Women Took on the Army during World War II by Sandra M Bolzenius
Privates in the Women’s Army Corps, Mary Green, Anna Morrison, Johnnie Murphy, and Alice Young led a strike in 1945 with fifty others to fight for the training, position, and treatment that had been promised yet denied to them as African American women in the military. Their persistence in the face of pervasive prejudice is covered in this text by Sandra Bolzenius, strengthening voices critical in the long narrative of the fight toward progress and justice in the US military.
These titles and hundreds more specifically on Black American military service are available for members to borrow at the Pritzker Military Museum and Library. Visit this link for more information, and to hear about other highlights of their collection like the Holt Oral History Program, which currently spotlights five African American service members: Mary Roberson, William Cook, Timuel Black, John Perry, and Diana Ramsey.