Yale University and Duke Law School alum, Rawn James Jr. discusses his new book on NPR’s Fresh Air. Listen here.
In his new book, The Double V: How Wars, Protest and Harry Truman Desegregated America’s Military, author Rawn James Jr. argues that if one wants to understand the story of race in the United States, one must understand the history of African-Americans in the country’s military. Since the country was founded, he tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies, the military “has continually been forced to confront what it means to segregate individuals according to race.”
In October 1775, the Continental Congress voted for the first time to keep blacks — enslaved or free — from serving in the military. Training blacks in armed warfare, the delegates believed, would lead to slave insurrection and trouble down the road. While many blacks fought for the Union in the Civil War, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the military began to officially integrate. The black Americans who served in World War I believed that their service would earn them respect and equality at home. Instead, they returned to lynchings and race riots. These memories were still fresh as the United States prepared to enter World War II.
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