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African American Experience in the World Wars: Soldiers in WW1

Resources on African American soldiers and civilians in World War 1 and World War 2

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Harlem Hellfighters

The Harlem Hellfighters—officially the 369th U.S. Infantry Division—started as an African American National Guard unit in New York. Unlike many African American soldiers, the unit spent a great deal of its time in combat, on loan to the French Army, becoming one of the most successful regiments of the war.

photo of waving African American soldiers

The famous 369th arrive in N.Y. City.

Photo from the U.S. National Archives (1917 or 1918)

Research Tip

What are primary sources?

Primary sources are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects that were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts that retell, analyze, or interpret events, usually at a distance of time or place (Library of Congress). Primary sources are the evidence of history, original records or objects created by participants or observers at the time historical events occurred or even well after events, as in memoirs and oral histories (RUSA). Examples of primary sources include diaries, photos, memoirs, newspapers, speeches, interviews, audio or video recordings, and more.

Please note that terminology in historical materials and in their descriptions does not always match the language preferred by members of the communities depicted and may include negative stereotypes or words some may consider offensive. 

To learn more about what primary sources are, check out this brief video.




African American Soldiers at War

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