The Harlem Hellfighters

The Harlem HellFighters

The history of Black people in the war efforts of the United States is immense. Black Americans have fought in every war America has been involved with. The public discussion around the film Red Tails gives us all an opportunity to grapple with the stories of the Black and enlisted. This post, we revisit the story of the 369th Infantry Regiment. They were also known as The Harlem Hellfighters.

Assigned to the French army, the 369th regiment was the first all-Black infantry combat unit to be shipped overseas.  The unit earned their nickname from the Germans by their reputation for being fierce fighters. The Hellfighters, although a third of them died in combat, they never had a man captured or lost ground. This show of valor was not recognized in America at the time, but only in France. 500 members would receive the French War Cross. The war at home in the U.S. against segregation was yet to be won.  There was still great reluctance to fully recognize the efforts of these Black soldiers.

For more about the Harlem Hellfighters:

Black Americans in the U.S. Military

Further reading: A More Unbending Battle: The Harlem Hellfighters Struggle For Freedom in World War I and Equality At Home, by Peter N. Nelson

-Marc W. Polite




  1. Nice work! I remember seeing the movie about the Tuskeegee Airmen and wondered how much was true now about 10 years or more later comes Redtails. I will make a trip to the Shomberg it’s been too long thanks!

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