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Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the Vietnam Era


The inclusion of black men and women in the military effort, especially after the Tet offensive of 1968, united them to oppose racism and sexism in the military and to view the "Vietnam War as an extension of the civil rights injustices African Americans fought at home" (p. 86). According to Stur, a knock on any door in any black community would reveal someone with a son, nephew, or cousin in Vietnam.

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									they exist and are employed most meaningfully          during this time, others openly rejoiced at the
in the defense of a nation worth defending—one         news that the troublemaker had been elimi-
that, by learning from its history, can overcome       nated. At Cam Ranh Bay, for example, whites
its mistakes and serve as a shining example of         raised the Confederate flag in celebration.
democracy.                                                 In “And Sing No More of War,” Kimberley L.
                                                       Phillips uses poetry to illustrate the black wom-
                       Capt Bryan D. Main, USAF
                                                       an’s response to the war in Vietnam. She cites
                                 Scott AFB, Illinois
                                                       June Jordan’s poem as an example of the black
                                                       woman’s vocal opposition to the war. Jordan ve-
                                                       hemently disagrees with jazz singer Ethel Ennis,
Soul Soldiers: African Americans and the               who sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at the inau-
  Vietnam Era edited by Samuel W. Black. Sena-         guration of Richard Nixon in 1973, saying, “My
  tor John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History           sister/what is this song/you have chosen to
  Center and the Historical Society of Western         sing?/. . . to celebrate murder?” (Ennis also sang
  Pennsylvania (           at the inauguration of Jimmy Carter in 1977 and
  ?cid=10#), 1212 Smallman Street, Pittsburgh,         toured Europe for the State Department in the
  Pennsylvania 15222, 2006, 218 pages, $29.95          1950s with Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong,
  (hardcover), $19.95 (softcover).                     and Count Basie.) Yet Phillips quickly reminds
                                                       readers that many prominent blacks, including
   Whether it was the American Revolution,             singer James Brown and actor Sammy Davis Jr.,
Civil War, Spanish-American War, or wars of the        supported the Nixon administration. Other black
past century, African-Americans participated to        poets, including Nikki Giovanni and Carolyn
gain full acceptance into society.                     Rodgers, denounced the war. Dr. King’s denun-
   Divided into three sections and drawing upon        ciation of the war in 1968, Phillips writes, made
the experiences of eight authors of various back-      it easier for such blacks as actor and singer
grounds who come together through the com-             Harry Belafonte to bridge the gap between activ-
mon threads of their views of the war in Viet-         ism and civil rights.
nam, Soul Soldiers will galvanize readers. For             Still, some black entertainers feared that open
example, in “Combat and the Interracial Male           criticism of the government might brand them
Friendship,” Herman Graham III relives the his-        as Communist sympathizers and precipitate the
tory of African-American military participation        end of their careers, just as the perception of
and argues that the Vietnam War was the first          radicalism ended the career of Canada Lee in
engagement in which blacks and whites fought           the 1940s and that of Josephine Baker in the
as equals. This sense of equality, he notes, en-       1950s. Yet such singers as Nina Simone were gal-
hanced a sense of camaraderie to support sur-          vanized by the violence in Birmingham in 1963
vival “so that each soldier would do his part to       and the murder of Medgar Evers in Jackson,
make the collective effort work” (p. 1). Yet he        Mississippi, the same year. Simone also collabo-
finds that the level of intimacy expe
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