Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War
The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality
Publication Date: April 2014
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With sweeping vision, historical precision, and unparalleled research, this book will stand as the definitive study of the 369th. Though discussed in numerous histories and featured in popular culture (most famously the film "Stormy Weather" and the novel "Jazz"), the 369th has become more a matter of mythology than grounded, factually accurate history--a situation that authors Jeffrey T. Sammons and John H. Morrow, Jr. set out to right. Their book--which eschews the regiment's famous nickname, the "Harlem Hellfighters," a name never embraced by the unit itself--tells the full story of the self-proclaimed Harlem Rattlers. Combining the "fighting focus" of military history with the insights of social commentary, "Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War" reveals the centrality of military service and war to the quest for equality as it details the origins, evolution, combat exploits, and postwar struggles of the 369th.
The authors take up the internal dynamics of the regiment as well as external pressures, paying particular attention to the environment created by the presence of both black and white officers in the unit. They also explore the role of women--in particular, the Women's Auxiliary of the 369th--as partners in the struggle for full citizenship. From its beginnings in the 15th New York National Guard through its training in the explosive atmosphere in the South, its singular performance in the French army during World War I, and the pathos of postwar adjustment--this book reveals as never before the details of the Harlem Rattlers' experience, the poignant history of some of its heroes, its place in the story of both World War I and the African American campaign for equality--and its full importance in our understanding of American history.
John H. Morrow, Jr., is Franklin Professor of History at the University of Georgia. He specializes in the history of modern Europe and warfare and in the study of warfare and society. He has written three books on early airpower and is completing a book on an African American regiment in the First World War.