A century ago the predominately African American U.S. Army 369th Infantry Regiment, fought two wars. Because of the segregation of the U.S. Armed Forces in the First World War, the 369th fought in France, not with our American troops, but with the French army. At least forty men from Sea Cliff, Locust Valley, Oyster Bay, and Glen Cove on Long island served in that unit in the First World War.
Dubbed by the Germans the “Harlem Hellfighters” because of their courage and tenacity in battle, the men of the 369th distinguished themselves on the battlefield. However, when they returned home, they again confronted a battleground in the quest for equal rights.
While that battle is still being fought, their efforts as soldiers did much to further the sense of Black pride and identity, which was a significant factor in the further development of the New Negro movement of the period and the creation of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.
In August 2021, the Harlem Hellfighters were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, bringing them long-overdue recognition.
The Nassau County Historical Society will host a webinar on the Harlem Hellfighters on Sunday, October 17th.
The speaker, Richard C. Harris, is Professor of Humanities and Assistant Dean at the Webb Institute in Glen Cove. Dr. Harris is the recipient of a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for his efforts to preserve the history of the Harlem Hellfighters.
The webinar will begin at 2 pm and is free and open to the general public. For more information or to register visit the Society’s website.
Photo of Harlem Hellfighters fighting with the French in the trenches provided.