Cover image for American patriots : the story of Blacks in the military from the Revolution to Desert Storm
American patriots : the story of Blacks in the military from the Revolution to Desert Storm
Buckley, Gail Lumet, 1937-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House, [2001]

Physical Description:
xxiv, 534 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.63 .B93 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E185.63 .B93 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E185.63 .B93 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
E185.63 .B93 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ
E185.63 .B93 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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American Patriotsis one of the great untold stories in American history. There have been books on individual black soldiers, but this is the first to tell the full story of the black American military experience, starting with the Revolution and culminating with Desert Storm. The best histories are about more than facts and events -- they capture the spirit that drives men to better their lives and to demand of themselves the highest form of sacrifice. That spirit permeates Gail Buckley's dramatic, deeply moving, and inspiring book. You'll meet the men who fought in the decisive engagements of the Revolution, the legendary Buffalo soldiers, and the heroic black regiments of the Civil War. You'll meet some of America's greatest patriots -- men who fought in the First and Second World Wars when their country denied them access to equipment and training, segregated the ranks, and did all it could to keep them off the battlefield. You'll meet the heroes of Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm. And you'll meet two families, the Lews and the Pierces, who have served in every American engagement since the Revolution. FDR used to say that Americanism was a matter of the mind and heart, not of race and ancestry. With photographs throughout and dozens of original interviews with veterans,American Patriotsis a tribute to the black American men and women who fought and gave their lives in the service of that ideal.

Author Notes

Gail Buckley is a journalist & the daughter of Lena Horne. Her family history - The Hornes - became an "American Masters" documentary, & she narrated a documentary on black American families for PBS. She has written for the "Los Angeles Times", "Vogue", the "New York Daily News", & "The New York Times". She lives in New York.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

This work complements Bernard Nalty's academically oriented history of blacks in America's wars, Strength for the Fight (1986), and Gerald Astor's narrative account, The Right to Fight (1998). Basing her account heavily on interviews and similar primary material, Buckley focuses on the particular experiences of black soldiers. She pulls no punches in describing discrimination against black soldiers, misrepresentation of their performances and denial of their achievements. But in a dominant culture that for much of its history was overtly segregated and highly racist, the pressures of necessity opened military service to blacks. It began as an individual process during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. By the end of the Civil War, the Union army counted its black soldiers in entire divisions and army corps. Black regiments, regulars and volunteers, served in the Plains Indian Wars and in the wars of empire at the century's turn. During the First World War, black troops won more credit under French colors than a segregated American Expeditionary Force would allow. Some black activists of the interwar years correspondingly turned to the revolutionary promises of Communism, playing a role in the Spanish Civil War's International Brigades, which Buckley arguably exaggerates. WWII was America's last segregated conflict. In Buckley's account the armed forces have succeeded in acknowledging past racism, while proving that liberal values like equality of treatment and opportunity are able to coexist with conservative ones like duty, honor and patriotism. (On-sale date: May 15) Forecast: Buckley, daughter of Lena Horne (and author of The Hornes), should have no trouble getting media attention on her six-city tour. Military history buffs and a broader readership interested in African-American history will turn out to buy this. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Journalist Buckley provides a thoughtful, ably written narrative of the history of African American military service from the Revolution to Desert Storm. Drawing widely from published literature and numerous interviews, the author sets the topic in the broader context of American racism. Black soldiers made contributions despite segregation, racial violence, and a mythology that they were unfit for combat and certainly not to be trusted with leadership assignments. Occasionally underestimating the extent of black opposition to war, Buckley reveals the contradiction between the service record made by blacks and the ill-founded nature of several American wars. A further probing of the consequences of this contradiction is lacking but surely needed. A striking feature of the book is its account of black participation in the volunteer Abraham Lincoln Brigade during the Spanish Civil War. In this struggle Americans fought their first fully integrated war. At points the book is blemished by factual errors on relatively minor matters but, all in all, this volume is a considerable cut above much of conventional military history. This is a work meriting the attention of readers seeking insightful military history and deeper knowledge of how the struggles of African Americans and the cause of democracy have been linked. For all general and academic collections. H. Shapiro University of Cincinnati

Booklist Review

Buckley, who is Lena Horne's daughter, surveys how the U.S. military, "once one of the most racist public institutions in America," evolved to "afford blacks personal, cultural, and social validity far above the American norm." Based on 14 years of research, including interviews with black men and women who served in the military, this is a powerful story of how blacks fought, inside and outside the military, for human rights and racial justice. Highlighting two black families who trace their U.S. military service from the Revolutionary War onward, she tells the stories of black heroes both well and barely known, stories American history and popular culture have neglected or distorted. She recalls the historical context of American battles--noting, for instance, that one of every five soldiers in the winning of the West was black--and how the wars affected black soldiers and civilians, with black veterans bringing a more combative spirit home after each engagement. Those who enjoyed Hidden Heroism: Black Soldiers in America's Wars [BKL Ja 1 & 15 01] will relish this book, too. --Vanessa Bush

Library Journal Review

Drawing a thread from the story of her own forebears, which she spun in The Hornes: An American Family (LJ 7/86. o.p.), journalist Buckley (Vogue, Los Angeles Times) tells the stirring story of blacks in the U.S. military, both at home and abroad, from the 1770s to the 1990s. The author reviews the experiences of Crispus Attucks and his fellow blacks during the Revolutionary War, the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in the Civil War, the Buffalo Soldiers of the Indians Wars, the 369th Regiment (the most decorated U.S. unit of World War I), and many more. Buckley's 11 chapters portray blacks fighting in and against the U.S. military as well as against racism in the belief that they could make a difference and improve their own lives and their country's heritage by pushing it closer to its own promise of freedom. This readable, spirited story deserves a place in every U.S. history collection, as well as in the black or military collections, which will find it essential. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/01.] Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Buckley originally wrote Patriots for an adult audience, and this abridgment is still a deeply moving and inspiring account of the history of African Americans in the U.S. military and their unrecognized heroism in the face of overt racism. Based on years of research and primary material, the volume presents the stories of many people ignored in standard history books. The accounts of the prejudice faced by these soldiers are hard to read, but important for understanding the significance of their achievements and the role that segregation played in military history and in the larger history of this country. Understandably, the text is dense and requires a certain level of knowledge of United States history and world events. The book includes 16 pages of captioned, black-and-white photographs and/or illustrations from each war covered and an extensive bibliography. The suggested reading list is tailored for a younger audience and includes such titles as Catherine Clinton's The Black Soldier: 1492 to the Present (Houghton, 2000), which would be a valuable addition for libraries wanting subject coverage for readers who are not ready for Buckley's book. The latter volume will serve as a standard resource for older students and may well spark interest in other adult titles on related topics. Libraries would do well to own both books.-Jennifer Ralston, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter 1 THE REVOLUTION Slavery and Independence I served in the Revolution, in General Washington's army. . . . I have stood in battle, where balls, like hail, were flying all around me. The man standing next to me was shot by my side--his blood spouted upon my clothes, which I wore for weeks. My nearest blood, except that which runs in my veins, was shed for liberty. My only brother was shot dead instantly in the Revolution. Liberty is dear to my heart--I cannot endure the thought, that my countrymen should be slaves. --"Dr. Harris," a black Revolutionary veteran, in an address to the Congregational and Presbyterian Anti-Slavery Society of Francestown, New Hampshire, 1842. Crispus Attucks: The First Martyr of the Revolution "BLOODY MASSACRE," screamed the March 12, 1770, issue of the Massachusetts Gazette, Paul Revere's four-color illustrated broadsheet, depicting redcoats with muskets firing into a crowd of well-dressed Boston citizens. Four victims lie bloodied on the ground. One, closest to the soldiers, the only one dressed in rough seaman clothes instead of a waistcoat and three-cornered hat, lies in the center foreground in a pool of blood. "The unhappy Sufferers," Revere wrote, were "Sam'l Gray, Sam'l Maverick, James Caldwell, Crispus Attucks Killed." (Revere omitted Patrick Carr, an Irish leather worker, who was also killed.) Gray was a rope maker, Maverick an apprentice joiner, Caldwell a ship's mate; the seaman Attucks, "killed on the Spot, two Balls entering his Breast," was described as "born in Framingham, but lately belonging to New Providence [the Bahamas]." The victims would lie in state in Faneuil Hall. "All the Bells tolled a solemn Peal" when they were buried together in one vault "in the middle burying-ground." Calling himself Michael Johnson, Attucks, the son of an African father and a Massachusetts Natick Indian mother, had spent the past twenty years at sea, having run away to escape slavery. Ten pounds' reward had been offered in 1750 by Deacon William Brown of Framingham for the return of "a Molatto Fellow, about 27 years of age, named Crispas, 6 Feet two Inches high, short, curl'd Hair, his Knees nearer together than common: had on a light colour'd Bearskin coat." In port in Boston on the night of March 5, 1770, Attucks was in a King Street tavern when an alarm bell was heard from the street's British sentry. When, leading a stick- and bat-wielding gang from the tavern, he discovered that the sentry was under "attack" only from snowball-throwing boys, he and his mob immediately took the side of the boys against the "Lobster Backs"--using heavy sticks instead of snowballs. Witnesses said that Attucks, striking the first blow, caused arriving British soldiers to open fire and hit eleven civilians--five of whom, including Attucks, were killed. At the cost of public scorn (and to cover up his cousin Samuel Adams's role in inciting riots), the Boston lawyer John Adams, a radical "Son of Liberty" who disapproved of violence, defended the British soldiers. Contradicting Paul Revere's presentation of the dead as respectable Bostonians, Adams declared that Attucks had been the leader of a "motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs." The merchant John Hancock also accused Attucks of provoking the so-called "Boston Massacre," but from a different point of view. "Who set the example of guns?" Hancock asked later. "Who taught the British soldier that he might be defeated? Who dared look into his eyes? I place, therefore, this Crispus Attucks in the foremost rank of the men that dared." The British soldiers were acquitted, but Americans won the propaganda battle. Attucks and his companions became the first popular martyrs of the Revolution. "You will hear from Us with Astonishment," read an anonymous letter to Governor Thomas Hutchinson in 1773, which John Adams copied in his diary. "You ought to hear from Us with Horror. You are chargeable before God and Man, with our Blood-- The Soldiers were but passive Instruments. . . . You acted, cooly, deliberately, with all that premeditated Malice, not against Us in particular but against the People in general. . . . You will hear further from us hereafter." It was signed "Crispus Attucks"--a new symbol of resistance. O O O On the eve of the Revolution, the black population of the British North American colonies was 500,000, out of a total population of 2,600,000. Only a fraction of that population went to war. Some five thousand blacks served under George Washington, and about a thousand, mostly Southern runaways, fought for George III. Although the percentage of the black population who served was small, by 1779 as many as one in seven members of Washington's never very large army were black. According to the historian Thomas Fleming, the Continental Line was "more integrated than any American force except the armies that fought in the Vietnam and Gulf Wars." The Great American "Fig Tree" At the end of the French and Indian Wars, Britain controlled North America from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, as well as most of the West Indies. It had reached the zenith of its empire just as the colonies were beginning to have a sense of nationhood. "Cast your eyes with me a little over this globe to view the deplorable state of your fellow creatures in other countries," wrote the Philadelphia lawyer John Dickinson in 1768. "In Russia, Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, and many parts of Germany there is no such thing as free-holders. . . . But how different is the case amongst us. We enjoy an unprecarious property, and every man may freely taste the fruits of his own labors under his vine and under his fig tree." The debt Britain had incurred in the Seven Years' War ensured taxation of the colonies and threatened life under the idyllic American fig tree. In British eyes, the American colonies existed only for the benefit of the mother country, but Americans saw any form of taxation as slavery. New England's objections to the Sugar Act, the Stamp Act, and all the other unpopular acts fueled the fires of independence. John Adams and his failed businessman cousin Samuel, leading radicals in the Continental Congress, were outspoken "Sons of Liberty," a term coined in the British Parliament in 1765 to describe American Stamp Act protestors. Samuel Adams created the Committees of Correspondence, an underground movement with branches springing up throughout New England, to encourage resistance against the British. The fires of independence were fueled among blacks as well as whites. A Massachusetts petition of 1773 from "a Grate Number of Blacks . . . who . . . are held in a state of slavery within the bowels of a free and Christian Country" asked for freedom and "some part of the unimproved land, belonging to the province, for a settlement, that each of us may there sit down quietly under his own fig tree." Quaker Philadelphia was the heart of early eighteenth-century abolitionism. Massachusetts Puritans preached against slavery, but only Quakers argued for justice and equality for blacks on every level of life. In 1727, the twenty-one-year-old Philadelphia printer Benjamin Franklin started a discussion group, the Junto, in which antislavery ideals figured large. Two years later he printed, anonymously, the first of his many antislavery tracts. "A Caution and a Warning to Great Britain and Her Colonies," a pamphlet published in 1766 by a Philadelphia Quaker named Anthony Benezet, was widely circulated. "How many of those who distinguish themselves as Advocates of Liberty remain insensible," he wrote, "to the treatment of thousands and tens of thousands of our fellow men, who . . . are at this very time kept in the most deplorable state of slavery." Meanwhile, Boston's James Otis, another outspoken opponent of Britain's "Intolerable Acts," wrote: "The colonists are by the law of nature free born, as indeed are all men, white or black." The upper South seemed to agree with the North that slavery would eventually be abandoned, and in the meantime ameliorated. In 1762, George Washington told his new overseer to "take all necessary and proper care of the Negroes, using them with proper humanity and discretion." Young Thomas Jefferson's first legislative action in the 1769 Virginia House of Burgesses was an emancipation measure. With so many important advocates, many believed that the new American nation would be free. Slavery was abolished in the British Isles in 1772. The decision resulted from the suit of one slave, James Somerset, who ran away from his American master in England. Somerset's lawyer, the British abolitionist Granville Sharp, won the case by arguing that since no positive law creating slavery existed in England, it could not be practiced there. Three days after the judgment, a group of two hundred blacks "with their ladies" held a public entertainment in Westminster "to celebrate the triumph of their Brother Somerset." British emancipation was a major propaganda coup, but it freed only the twenty thousand?odd slaves living in Britain itself, leaving American and West Indian slavery untouched. Benjamin Franklin wrote to Anthony Benezet about the "hypocrisy" of Britain "for promoting the Guinea trade, while it piqued itself on its virtue . . . in setting free a single Negro." By 1774, Boston--whose port was closed until the eighteen thousand pounds of tea dumped in the harbor the previous December was paid for--was the center of abolition as well as revolution. "No country can be called free when there is one slave," wrote James Swan, a Boston merchant and Son of Liberty who had disguised himself as an Indian in the Boston Tea Party." It has always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me," Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John, "to fight for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have." In November 1774, the thirty-seven-year-old Tom Paine arrived in Philadelphia with a letter of introduction to Benjamin Franklin. Paine, a former corsetmaker's apprentice and low-level tax collector, was drawn to abolition as much by his sympathy for antigovernment politics as by his Quaker background. Franklin helped Paine become editor of The Pennsylvania Magazine, where his first published article, "African Slavery in America," appeared on March 8, 1775. "With what consistency, or decency," he wrote, could colonists "complain so loudly of attempts to enslave them, while they hold so many hundred thousand in slavery." Paine advocated abolition, land redistribution, and economic opportunity. Two weeks later Patrick Henry, a slave owner who called slavery "repugnant to humanity," raised the American battle cry with "Give me liberty or give me death!" America's first antislavery society met in Philadelphia on April 14, 1775. Five days later, America was at war with Britain. Excerpted from American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm by Gail Lumet Buckley All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.