Hot off the press this month is a new book by Chad L. Williams, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era. In the book, Williams reveals the central role of African American soldiers in World War I and how they, along with race activists and ordinary citizens alike, committed to fighting for democracy at home and beyond.
Williams recently gave his book “the page 99 test:”
Page 99 comes towards the end of Chapter Two and a discussion of the training camp experiences of African American soldiers. While not capturing the full breadth of Torchbearers of Democracy, this small slice of the book does touch upon two central themes. The first is how African American soldiers themselves, as a diverse group of men, internalized the meanings of their wartime service. I assert that, contrary to previous historical discussions of black soldiers in World War I, their experiences cannot be cast as uniformly negative or disillusioning. White supremacy was without question ubiquitous and had painful repercussions. But many African American soldiers were nevertheless proud of their army experience and reaped gains, both tangible and intangible, that proved personally meaningful. One of these gains related directly to manhood, a second theme page 99 addresses. The war and military service transformed notions of gender—and manhood and womanhood specifically—for African American men and women.
You can see some other pages from the book (but not quite all the way up to 99, sorry) in the widget embedded above. To get to know the author and learn more about his book, you can visit his Facebook page and the website for the book, where Williams is also blogging.