A Freedom Bought with Blood: African American War Literature by Jennifer C. James

By Jennifer C. James

Within the first entire research of African American warfare literature, Jennifer James analyzes fiction, poetry, autobiography, and histories concerning the significant wars waged prior to the desegregation of the U.S. army in 1948. analyzing literature in regards to the Civil battle, the Spanish-American Wars, global conflict I, and global struggle II, James introduces more than a few infrequent and understudied texts by way of writers similar to Victor Daly, F. supply Gilmore, William Gardner Smith, and Susie King Taylor. She argues that works via those in addition to canonical writers comparable to William Wells Brown, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Gwendolyn Brooks mark a particular contribution to African American letters. In constructing African American conflict literature as a long-standing literary style in its personal correct, James additionally considers the ways that this writing, headquartered because it is on moments of nationwide situation, complex debates approximately black id and African americans' claims to citizenship. In a provocative review, James argues that the very ambivalence over using violence as a political tool defines African American battle writing and creates a compelling, contradictory physique of literature that defies effortless precis.

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Additional info for A Freedom Bought with Blood: African American War Literature from the Civil War to World War II

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War is an act of violence—or, as it were, a zone of multiple acts of violence. " The purpose of war is to wound, maim, or kill, and to risk being wounded, maimed, or killed, until the most injured forces cede defeat. Winning is a by-product of intentional injuring; injuring is not, Scarry argues, the unfortunate by-product ofwinning. S. Army War College, Ralph Peters argues against such subterfuge, asserting that "we don't need discourses. We need . . the will to close with the enemy and kill him.

In fact, preoccupation with deevolutionizing the black male body during wartime—what Brooks calls the ascription of "congenital inequities" in one of her poems—only seemed to increase as the number of black men serving in the armed forces continued to steadily rise. Addie Hunton and Kathyrn M. Johnson, two African American women assigned to the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, express dismay upon discovering that many French civilians believed rumors of blacks' savagery: "They had been systematically informed that their dark skinned allies .

Yes: they had," he writes, explaining that the bravery of the black troops "created a new chapter in American history for the colored man" (172). His assurance seems more than a bit disingenuous. Brown indeed is trying to have it both ways: these black lives were both carelessly disposed of in battle and honorably preserved by historical record—not just his, but the dominant culture's, who, Brown writes, "paid . . tribute" to these men (172). When read within the context of his preface—he writes that he is "feeling anxious to preserve for future reference an account of the part which the Negro took" in the recently ended war—Brown's insistence that the blood of black lives lost, even those lost in this most obscene manner, had already written this "chapter in American history" appears to be more hopeful than truthful.

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