“Powerfully connects the history of war and peace with the long black freedom struggle in the United States, illuminating as never before the relationship between war and citizenship in the African American experience.”—Timothy Patrick McCarthy, coeditor of The Radical Reader
“A rich, provocative compilation that will stimulate important discussions on African Americans’ fraught relationship with the military.”—Venetria Patton, editor of Background Readings for Teachers of American Literature
From enslaved people who joined Washington’s Continental Army and Buffalo Soldiers in the Indian Wars to the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II and black servicemen and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, African Americans have been an integral part of the country’s armed forces—even while the nation questioned, challenged, and denied their rights, and oftentimes their humanity.
These Truly Are the Brave collects poems, stories, plays, songs, essays, pamphlets, newspaper articles, speeches, oral histories, letters, and political commentaries, richly contextualizing them within their specific historical moments. This volume offers perspectives on war, national loyalty, and freedom from a sweeping range of writers that includes Phillis Wheatley, James Weldon Johnson, Natasha Trethewey, W.E.B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Lucille Clifton, Michael S. Harper, Yusef Komunyakaa, Gwendolyn Brooks, and many more. Some selections here present African Americans embracing wartime service as a way to express citizenship; other selections show black people remaining steadfast in quiet civilian work. Wrestling with their disputed place in American democracy, the courageous writers in this anthology expose and reexamine the foundations of U.S. citizenship.
A. Y. Jimoh is professor of African American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the author of Spiritual, Blues, and Jazz People in African American Fiction. Françoise N. Hamlin is associate professor of Africana Studies and History at Brown University and the author of Crossroads at Clarksdale.