Search This Blog

Sunday, October 22, 2017


On Thursday, October 19th, UWF's Race & Reconciliation community group held a discussion on the Harlem Renaissance and contemporary protests regarding the National Football League. Dr. Lusharon Wiley, University of West Florida's Associate Dean of Students for Inclusion Services and Programs, facilitated the panel discussion. Discussants included noted Pensacola poet and activist Quincy "Q" Hull ( and see also, Ms. Margie McKinnon, and Mr. John Satterwhite. The latter two contributed their observations on current protests surrounding the NFL. Mr. Scott Satterwhite, originally scheduled to appear, sent his regrets.

Mr. Hull recommended that anyone wanting more information, please consult the three-page pdf document, "Guidelines for Being Strong White Allies." 

The following two videos opened the presentation: HERE and HERE.

The Harlem Renaissance grew out of the African American experience in the First World War and the white terrorist riots of 1919. The following account is taken from the sixth edition of From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Negro Americans, by John Hope Franklin and Alfred A. Moss. The book was first published in 1947. The sixth edition was published in 1988.

In World War I, African American men were heavily involved in the war effort in France in two ways and distinguished themselves. One part of their effort was in logistics and engineering. Almost one-third of the American force, more than 50,000 troops, were found in 115 different units. These units included "stevedore regiments, engineer service battalions, labor battalions, butchery companies, and pioneer infantry battalions" (p. 298). In September 1918 alone, they unloaded 767,648 tons of cargo in French ports, "an average of more than 25,000 tons per day."

However, it was in combat operations, as all-black regiments which earned them respect from French and American generals

The 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment, known to history as "The Harlem Hellfighters," was originally the New York National Guard Regiment. The nickname apparently came from their enemy, the Germans, who called the unit "Hell Fighters." The unit's bravery, determination, and combat effectiveness is in its record of being "almost continuously in action against the Germans.... It was the first unit of Allied armies to reach the Rhine. The regiment never lost a man through capture, and it never gave up a trench of a foot of ground. It saw the first and longest service of any American regiment as part of a foreign army, having been in the trenches for 191 days" (p. 299). "The Harlem Hellfighters" as a regiment won the Croix de Guerre [Cross of War], a medal the French created in April 1915 for foreign fighters. In addition, "171 individual officers and enlisted men were cited for the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor of exceptional gallantry in action." (p. 299)

The 370th U.S. Infantry Regiment, the former Eighth Illinois Infantry Regiment, had 68 men receive "various grades of the Croix de Guerre, 21 receive the Distinguished Service Cross, and 1 receive the Distinguished Service Medal. (p. 299)

The 371st U.S. Infantry Regiment, was attached to the famous "Red Hand," the 157th French Division under the command of General Goybet. Of the men in this unit, "three officers won the French Legion of Honor, while thirty-four officers and eighty-nine enlisted men won the Croix de Guerre. Fourteen officers and twelve enlisted men won the Distinguished Service Cross. (p. 299)

The 372nd U.S. Infantry Regiment, also attached to the French "Red Hand" division, had added to its regimental colors the "Croix de Guerre and palm." (p. 300)

The U.S. 92nd Infantry Division had "forty-three enlisted men and fourteen Negro officers...cited for bravery in action and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. (p. 301)

General Goybet, commander of the French "Red Hand" division, in praising the bravery and the loss of life and limb of the Black troops stated, "'Never will the 157th Division forget the indomitable dash, the heroic rush of the American regiments (Negro).... These crack regiments overcame every obstacle with a most complete contempt for danger.'" And, General Pershing, commander of the overall American Expeditionary Force stated, "'I want you officers and soldiers of the 92nd Division to know that the 92nd Division stands second to none in the record you have made since your arrival in France. I am proud of the part you have played in the great conflict which ended on the 11th of November.'" (p. 302).

The bravery and sacrifice in blood was not, or perhaps because of, sufficient to stop white Americans in France from trying to pollute France with their racism. Franklin and Moss noted that "American whites told the French that Negroes could not be treated with common civility, that they were rapists, and that Americans were compelled to lynch and burn Negroes in order to keep them in their place." They circulated among the French troops a document, "Secret Information Concerning Black Troops," calling for "the complete separation of blacks and whites, lest blacks assault and rape white women." The French ignored the white Americans' counsel. (p. 303)

Nevertheless, a widespread rumor arose of that "Negro soldiers were attacking and criminally assaulting French women in large numbers." The commanding general of the 92nd Division, nicknamed the "Buffalo Soldiers" and whose motto was "Deeds, Not Words," claimed that his soldiers had committed at least 26 rapes. A subsequent investigation found that of the 12,000+ men in the division, there had been 7 reported cases, 2 men had been found guilty, and 1 of the convictions had been overturned. In fact, the cases had been isolated to one small detachment of a battalion in a single regiment. (p. 303).

Upon returning home from trench warfare and being horribly gassed, Black Americans were subjected to a new terror.  The summer of 1919 is called the "Red Summer." From June to December there about 25 race riots throughout the country. Riots, which were whites attacking Blacks, took place in Longview, Texas; Washington, D.C.; Chicago, Illinois; Knoxville, TN; Omaha, Nebraska; Elaine, Arkansas; and, Tulsa, Oklahoma in June 1921. In what is known locally as a "race war," 9 whites and 21 Blacks were killed, and several hundred were wounded. In all, "more than $1 million worth of property had been destroyed or damaged." (pp. 315-6).

What is noteworthy about the riots, was "the Negroes' willingness to fight and to die in their own defense injected a new factor into America's most perplexing social problem. It was no longer a case of one race intimidating another into submission. Now it was war in the full sense of the word, and Negroes were as determined to win it as they had been in Europe." (p. 316)

While white Americans wanted to blame foreign influences on Black Americans, notably the idea of equality they acquired while fighting in France and the influence of Bolshevism, Franklin and Moss reported that "Blacks, however, ridiculed this view.... In October 1919 the Pittsburgh Courier declared, "'As long as the Negro submits to lynchings, burnings, and oppressions--and says nothing he is a loyal American citizen. But when he decides that lynching and burnings shall cease even at the cost of bloodshed in America, then he is a Bolshevist.'"

Those are just some of the larger social forces that not only resulted in sustained protest and resistance by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, but to rising voices from Harlem, in what is known as the Harlem Renaissance (or the Black Renaissance or the New Negro Movement), and which spread throughout the country. Writers, Black and white, began investigating a host of problems in America dealing with "housing, crime, social planning, and disarmament...[and] the American race problem." Not all Black writers in this period "were conscious crusaders for a better world," and some had a more detached stance that nevertheless contributed to this intellectual ferment. The Harlem Renaissance included poets, novelists, playwrights and thespians, songwriters and musicians, comedians, painters and muralists, and sculptors.

While the works these public intellectuals produced are too numerous to list, Franklin and Moss observed of this movement, "The Afro-American participant in the Harlem Renaissance inherited a legacy of expression from those of an earlier period and, in using it, transformed it into a powerful, relevant statement that would greatly influence succeeding generations." (p. 338)

Below are videos of the event.

Dr. Lusharon WILEY, Introduction

Mr. Quincy "Q" HULL, poem

Dr. Lusharon WILEY, Closing Statement

No comments:

Post a Comment