Half American

In commemoration of Memorial Day, this week's review uncovers the experiences of African American soldiers in World War II and the impact of racism on their postwar lives.

Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad

Delmont, Matthew F. Viking, 2022
400p bibl index, 9781984880390 $30.00, 9781984880406

Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad book cover.

This well-written, scholarly history considers the “Double V” campaign African Americans waged during WW II—one “V” for victory against the Axis powers abroad, the other for success against domestic racism. Beginning with African Americans’ interest in the Italo-Ethiopian War and the Spanish Civil War, Delmont (Dartmouth College) chronicles their participation in WW II and ends with their immediate postwar struggle to achieve full citizenship rights and recognition consonant with their wartime sacrifices. And sacrifices there were, whether on the battlefront (e.g., the non-acceptance of Black volunteers, segregated training centers in hostile white communities, placement in non-combat units, disparagement by white officers) or on the home front (e.g., underemployment in burgeoning war industries, refusal to advance Black workers into semi-skilled/skilled positions, discriminatory housing). Examples of the structural racism encountered and fought against by both male and female leaders abound, such as A. Philip Randolph and Ella Baker, as well as by ordinary people in foxholes, factories, and neighborhoods. This book should be read by anyone interested in how so many Americans of “the Greatest Generation” and the US government rewarded the selfless sacrifice of fellow Americans with denigration and abuse.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals.
R. T. Ingoglia, St. Thomas Aquinas College
Interdisciplinary Subjects: African and African American Studies, Racial Justice
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – History, Geography & Area Studies
Choice Issue: Jul 2023

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