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The Harlem Hellfighters of World War I

After years of requesting an all-black unit in the National Guard, the governor of New York finally put the order into place. In January 1918, the all-black 369th Infantry Regiment, which would later become known as the Harlem Hellfighters, landed in France to fight in World War I.

Bold, brave, and prepared for battle, the men arrived for duty. However, the white US troops on the ground had a different agenda. With pressure coming from France, and no desire to desegregate combat units, the US agreed to hand over the 369th Infantry Regiment to the French to use as they saw fit for the war. The troops ended up fighting for 191 days, longer than any American troops prior, and received praises from the French and American public for their commitment and patriotism.

In this episode of Black History in Two Minutes or So hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. — with additional commentary from Hasan Jeffries of Ohio State University — we show reverence to a group of men who were eager to protect a freedom abroad that they had not fully gained at home.

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