Some 4,500 Black American soldiers, victims of segregation laws in force in the U.S. army, fought in French uniforms during World War I. Nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters, these soldiers displayed exceptional valor in combat. Here is their incredible yet little-known story.
"Up the wide avenue they swung. Their smiles outshone the golden sunlight […]. New York turned out to tender its dark-skinned heroes a New York welcome." This was written by a journalist for the New York Herald Tribune in 1919, describing the triumphant parade down Fifth Avenue of 3,000 African-American soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 369th infantry regiment. Thousands of people watched the procession, crowding onto the sidewalks. "Never have white Americans accorded so heartfelt and hearty a reception to a contingent of their Black country-men […]. Racial lines were for the time displaced. The color of their skin had nothing to do with the occasion. The blood they had shed in France was as red as any other."
This post-war passion contrasted strikingly with how the all-Black 369th[...]