Harlem at War: The Black Experience in WWII.Harlem at War centers on the Harlem riot of 1943: a hot summer night; a confrontation between a black soldier in uniform and a white policeman; wild rumors; black violence fed by the anger and frustration of centuries; looting and fires and the death of six Harlem men, five at the hands of police. This was America's first "commodity" riot. Unlike earlier race riots This is a list of race riots by country. Australia
1. Of, relating to, or practicing impressionism.
2. Of, relating to, or predicated on impression as opposed to reason or fact: impressionistic memories of early childhood. tour of today's Harlem and ends with foreboding: "One cannot help wondering what keeps its residents from rising up once more in anger and frustration." (p. 230)
Brandt, however, is not so much concerned with the riot itself as with a larger portrait of a nation divided. During World War II, he shows, "at a time when national unity was a prime concern of the federal government, the legacy of decades of prejudice grew in intensity, both in civilian life and in the armed services The Constitution authorizes Congress to raise, support, and regulate armed services for the national defense. The President of the United States is commander in chief of all the branches of the services and has ultimate control over most military matters. ." (p. 132) Working through accretion as much as argument, Brandt captures the feel of that era of crisis in a richness of detail and context. Readers see not only segregated toilets in the south, but a segregated armed forces in which even the blood donated to save the lives of wounded soldiers is kept separate by race. Readers learn not only of the violence against blacks in southern training camps, but also of the discrimination and indignities visited upon blacks in the more progressive cities of the northern states. And, finally, they hear the voices of black Americans who are disillusioned dis·il·lu·sion
tr.v. dis·il·lu·sioned, dis·il·lu·sion·ing, dis·il·lu·sions
To free or deprive of illusion.
1. The act of disenchanting.
2. The condition or fact of being disenchanted. with their nation, which was fighting the racial hate of Nazi Germany with a segregated army. As popular history, Brandt's work is useful both for those who do not understand the weight of prejudice in American history and for those who believe that nothing at all has changed.
For professional historians, this book further dissects the illusion of unity in America's last "Good War." Harlem at War is not significant for historiographical originality; rather, it is valuable because it establishes the universe of knowledge available to a relatively-educated Harlem resident in the 1940s. Brandt does not restrict himself to Harlem in this work, despite its title. He states from the beginning that his "context is the entire country." But as he ranges from the Oval Office to Great Britain to the Los Angeles Zoot Suit Riots, from defense plants in the midwest to southern training camps, he anchors these disparate but connected places and events to their portrayal in the black press, most particularly Harlem's Amsterdam News. "[I]f the pages of the newspapers he read are any indication," Brandt writes, "a black, half a century ago, must have felt that living in the United States was like riding a rollercoaster.... To be a black then was to experience a constant flux of emotions." (p. 85) By chronicling that flux, the juxtaposition of good news and bad in the pages of the black press, Brandt provides both intellectual and emotional context for the frustration and anger he sees among black Americans during the war. It is not simply that members of their race were treated shamefully in too many instances as they sought to serve their country. It is also that blacks throughout the nation knew about these incidents, learning about them primarily through the black press. Brandt discusses the biases and structural imperatives of the black press, but more on the production and reception of these news stories would strengthen this book for the professional portion of his audience.
In general, because of the author's avowed a·vow
tr.v. a·vowed, a·vow·ing, a·vows
1. To acknowledge openly, boldly, and unashamedly; confess: avow guilt. See Synonyms at acknowledge.
2. To state positively. focus on Harlem while writing extensively about federal politics and military policy, the book seems somewhat disorganized dis·or·gan·ize
tr.v. dis·or·gan·ized, dis·or·gan·iz·ing, dis·or·gan·iz·es
To destroy the organization, systematic arrangement, or unity of. or disjointed. A history of black settlement in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of since colonial times is somewhat awkwardly juxtaposed jux·ta·pose
tr.v. jux·ta·posed, jux·ta·pos·ing, jux·ta·pos·es
To place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. with the material on World War II. Harlem's actual role in the war might be better chronicled: what of the active civil defense work he mentions briefly? What of Harlem's 369th Regiment and their complicated role in military negotiations over the role of blacks in the war? In smaller quibbles, I found his justification for using the term "black" disingenuous, and question the unity implied by Brandt's subtitle, The Black Experience in WWII WWII
World War II
WWII World War Two . Brandt says that dark-skinned blacks "looked down" on light-skinned blacks; it may have been true, but social status and power certainly ran in the other direction at that time.
In sum, this is a thoughtful and often powerful account of the disunity dis·u·ni·ty
n. pl. dis·u·ni·ties
Lack of unity.
Noun 1. disunity - lack of unity (usually resulting from dissension) of America at war. For scholars, Brandt's chronicle of the Harlem Riot will not supersede To obliterate, replace, make void, or useless.
Supersede means to take the place of, as by reason of superior worth or right. A recently enacted statute that repeals an older law is said to supersede the prior legislation. Dominic Capeci's The Harlem Riot of 1943. But as a portrayal of the legacy of prejudice, it bears an important message indeed.
Beth Bailey Feminist Research Institute, University of New Mexico The University of New Mexico (UNM) is a public university in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was founded in 1889. It also offers multiple bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and professional degree programs in all areas of the arts, sciences, and engineering.