The Civil Rights Struggle

African American GIs and the U.S. Military in the 20th Century

New York University, Fall 2012 (HIST-GA.3022.001)
Independent Study


Throughout the 20th century, a large number of African American civil rights activists and organizations conceived of their struggle for racial equality in the United States as part of a larger struggle against colonialism in Africa, Asia, and South America.

This independent study explores how their transnational campaigns and the responses they evoked would intersect with the experience of African American soldiers who participated in overseas military conflicts from World War I until the Gulf War of 1990/91.

A growing body of literature on this topic will facilitate our analysis of the African American freedom struggle from a global perspective. The course thus incorporates the experience of black servicemen and women in Europe, Asia and the Middle East into the broader context of an ongoing quest for equal rights and social justice in the United States.


Selected readings include:

  • Anderson, Carol. Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Gilmore, Glenda Elizabeth. Defying Dixie: The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008.
  • Goedde, Petra. Gis and Germans: Culture, Gender and Foreign Relations, 1945-1949. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Gore, Dayo F. Radicalism at the Crossroads: African American Women Activists in the Cold War. New York: New York University Press, 2011.
  • Gore, Dayo F., Jeanne Theoharis, and Komozi Woodard. Want to Start a Revolution? : Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle. New York: New York University Press, 2009.
  • Hinton, Elizabeth Kai, and Manning Marable. The New Black History: Revisiting the Second Reconstruction. The Critical Black Studies Series. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
  • Höhn, Maria, and Martin Klimke. A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
  • Höhn, Maria, and Seungsook Moon. Over There: Living with the U.S. Military Empire from World War Two to the Present. Durham N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010.
  • Kruse, Kevin M., and Stephen Tuck. Fog of War: The Second World War and the Civil Rights Movement. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Lentz-Smith, Adriane Danette. Freedom Struggles: African Americans and World War I. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009.
  • Marable, Manning, and Vanessa Agard-Jones. Transnational Blackness: Navigating the Global Color Line. The Critical Black Studies Series. 1st ed. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.
  • Pennybacker, Susan D. From Scottsboro to Munich: Race and Political Culture in 1930s Britain. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  • Singh, Nikhil Pal. Beyond the “Empire of Jim Crow”: Race and War in Contemporary U.S. Globalism. In: The Japanese Journal of American Studies, No. 20 (2009), 89-111.
  • Schroer, Timothy L. Recasting Race after World War Ii: Germans and African Americans in American-Occupied Germany. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2007.
  • Smith, Graham. When Jim Crow Met John Bull: Black American Soldiers in World War Ii Britain. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988.
  • Weatherford, Doris. American Women During World War Ii: An Encyclopedia. 1st ed. New York: Routledge, 2010.