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African American Experience in the World Wars: In the Arts
Resources on African American soldiers and civilians in World War 1 and World War 2
The story and complete text of a book of poetry written by African American sisters Ada Tess Peters (age 18) and Ethel Pauline Peters (age 17). "Overcoming the persistent obstacles of the Jim Crow era in addition to gender, age, and geography, the women published this volume 'to show the need of unity of all men in the fight for democracy' and to comment boldly on the issues of racism in the context of war."
Chapter in: Living with Lynching. University of Illinois Press, 2011. About Alice Dubar-Nelson's play Mine Eyes Have Seen, a play that compares lynching to black military service in World War I. This one-act soon inspired Mary Burrill's similarly themed script, Aftermath, published in 1919.
James Europe was a musical pioneer who took jazz to France as bandleader for the Harlem Hellfighters regiment as well as serving on the front lines of World War 1. He was a man of tremendous depths and ambitions, constantly aspiring to win recognition for black musicians and wider acceptance for their music.
See especially in Chapter 2 about the 404th WAC Band of African American women musicians. Today, few remember these all-female military bands. The novelty of these bands--initially employed by the U.S. military to support bond drives--drew enough spectators for the bands to be placed on tour, raising money for the war and boosting morale.
Shows how movies anticipated and helped form America's changing ideas about race. From the liberal rhetoric of the war years--marked as it was by the propaganda catchwords brotherhood and tolerance--came movies that defined a new African-American presence both in film and in American society at large.