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Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era (The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture) Hardcover – September 20, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This well-written, accessible book illustrates the impact of the war in the context of the wider freedom struggle. . . . A fine addition to the growing literature on the relationship between war and democracy." --Journal of American History



Torchbearers of Democracy provides more than a new account of a pivotal chapter in the history of African Americans in the military, it reintroduces us to those who fought for democracy.--Journal of African American History



Torchbearers of Democracy is like nothing else in the field.--Canadian Journal of History



[Williams] writes with grace, occasional flair, and a solidly readable style. The book sustains the reader's interest, even in the sections where the material is extremely familiar.--Canadian Journal of History



Williams places the experiences of African American soldiers during the World War I era front and center. In doing so, he illuminates the powerful, and often shifting, connections between citizenship and military service in a democracy.--U.S. Military History Review



A clear, unvarnished look at America in World War I. . . . Concise, descriptive and easy to read. . . . A very necessary and valuable book.--TOCWOC



William's account of the experiences of African American servicemen in World War I and the transformative impact on them is a model study and one well worth reading.--Journal of American Ethnic History



A nuanced, scintillating, and highly original work.--Journal of the North Carolina Association of Historians



A masterpiece of interpretative social history . . . . Essential.--Journal of Southern History



Us[es] a diverse range of sources. . . . Reclaims the legacy of black soldiers and establishes the World War I era as a defining moment in the history of African Americans and peoples of African descent more broadly. . . . An important addition to a WWI library.--Lone Star Book Review



A far-ranging and detailed analysis.--St. Mihiel Trip-Wire



Indispensable. . . . Bits and pieces of this story may be found in a variety of other histories, but none to date have put the entire story together with the comprehensiveness, care, research, and insight of this hefty work. Highly recommended.--Choice



Torchbearers of Democracy is not a story with heroes and villains, only victims. And Williams tells the story with the exquisite skill of a scholarly storyteller.--Virginia Libraries



[The] balance between the stories of black culturalists and those of black objects of terror, along with an astonishing breadth of scholarship and a graceful style. . . makes Torchbearers of Democracy the best account yet of a complex and decisive moment in African American social, civic, and cultural history.--African American Review



Torchbearers of Democracy reclaims the legacy of black soldiers and establishes the World War I era as a defining moment in the history of African Americans and peoples of African descent more broadly. . . . This book is an important addition to a W.W.I library.--The Lone Star Book Review

Review

In this important, sophisticated, and original study, Chad Williams establishes the centrality of black soldiers and veterans to the struggles against racial inequality during World War I as no other book does. Torchbearers of Democracy sensitively examines the fraught connections between citizenship, obligation, and race while highlighting the diversity of black soldiers' experiences in fighting on behalf of a democracy that denied them rights and dignity. This is a major contribution to political, military, and civil rights history.--Eric Arnesen, George Washington University

|In a manner that no previous author has achieved, Chad Williams vividly captures the turbulent times and sentiments of African Americans in general and black soldiers in particular during the World War I era. His scholarship is outstanding.--John Morrow Jr., Franklin Professor of History, University of Georgia

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Product Details

  • Series: The John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture
  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1st edition (September 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807833940
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807833940
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,365,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chad Williams is a native of California and grew up in San Francisco. He attended college at UCLA, where he earned a BA with honors in History and African American Studies. Chad went on to graduate school at Princeton University, receiving both his MA and Ph.D. in History. From 2004 to 2012 he taught at Hamilton College, one of the nation's top liberal arts institutions. He is currently an associate professor and chair of the African and Afro-American Studies Department at Brandeis University. His courses have spanned U.S., African American and African diaspora history, broadly, and race, war and society, African American intellectual history, and the New Negro, specifically.

Chad is widely recognized as an expert on African Americans and World War I and, more generally, African Americans and the military. His first book, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era, was published by the University of North Carolina Press. Widely praised as a landmark study, Torchbearers of Democracy has won the 2011 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 2011 Distinguished Book Award from the Society for Military History. Chad has published articles and book reviews in numerous leading journals and collections. He has earned fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Ford Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. He is currently completing a study of W. E. B. Du Bois's historical writings on World War I.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James W. Durney TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
[Reviewer's note: I have used Negro and Colored where I would normally use Black in this review. These men thought of themselves in these terms and I do so out of respect for them.]
Approximately 50 years after the American Civil War People of Color lived in an America we cannot image. The Civil War ended slavery and Reconstruction had given Negro males the vote. However, discrimination had taken most of the promises and many of the advances away. The majority of Negros live in the southern states under strict Jim Crow laws. They are a rural people careful in their conduct and subject to lynching for any infractions. America averages over 80 of these a year between 1882 and 1916. The great migration to the North is starting but major movement is years away. The North, while lacking Jim Crow laws, has customs that have almost the same impact. Discrimination is rampart and race riots are not uncommon. Negros exist in a separate and unequal America. Distrusted, hated and often exploited they do their best to advance themselves and their race. Lynching is not restricted to the South either. While not as common, Northern race riots occur often.
America enters World War I to "make the world safe for democracy" without considering the status of its' colored population. This cruel joke is not lost on the Negro press but practical considerations make it necessary to support the war effort. These considerations, the legal and social discrimination aside the majority of Negros were patriotic and supported the war.
The United States Army reflects the society it serves and protects. In spite of the experiences since the Civil War, the Army harbors doubts about Negros making good soldiers. The core of United States Colored Troops and Negro National Guard units should be all right.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Berlin on March 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
TORCHBEARERS OF DEMOCRACY: AFRICAN AMERICAN SOLDIERS IN THE WORLD WAR I ERA has been awarded the Society for Military History 2011 Distinguished Book Award for United States Military History.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rev. Joe, author of The Gospel According to Joe on January 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautifully written in depth book. Dr. Williams must be commended. Thought provoking book that makes you want to know more.
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