Half American: Book summary and reviews of Half American by Matthew F. Delmont

Half American

The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad

by Matthew F. Delmont

Half American by Matthew F. Delmont X
Half American by Matthew F. Delmont
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Book Summary

The definitive history of World War II from the African American perspective, written by civil rights expert and Dartmouth history professor Matthew Delmont.

Over one million Black men and women served in World War II. Black troops were at Normandy, Iwo Jima, and the Battle of the Bulge, serving in segregated units and performing unheralded but vital support jobs, only to be denied housing and educational opportunities on their return home. Without their crucial contributions to the war effort, the United States could not have won the war. And yet the stories of these Black veterans have long been ignored, cast aside in favor of the myth of the "Good War" fought by the "Greatest Generation."

Half American is American history as you've likely never read it before. In these pages are stories of Black heroes such as Thurgood Marshall, the chief lawyer for the NAACP, who investigated and publicized violence against Black troops and veterans; Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., leader of the Tuskegee Airmen, who was at the forefront of the years-long fight to open the Air Force to Black pilots; Ella Baker, the civil rights leader who advocated on the home front for Black soldiers, veterans, and their families; James Thompson, the 26-year-old whose letter to a newspaper laying bare the hypocrisy of fighting against fascism abroad when racism still reigned at home set in motion the Double Victory campaign; and poet Langston Hughes, who worked as a war correspondent for the Black press. Their bravery and patriotism in the face of unfathomable racism is both inspiring and galvanizing. In a time when the questions World War II raised regarding race and democracy in America remain troublingly relevant and still unanswered, this meticulously researched retelling makes for urgently necessary reading.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The persistence of white supremacy in the U.S. means that the nation was not fully victorious in WWII, according to this revelatory history...Delmont makes clear how Black soldiers' experiences stoked their commitment to fighting for racial justice...an eloquent and essential corrective to the historical record." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The narrative provides important pages that have been missing from American history. A vital story well rendered, recounting a legacy that should be recognized, remembered, and applauded." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Delmont's work restores these times to our collective memory." - Booklist (starred review)

"Civil rights expert Delmont has written what is sure to become the standard text on the experience of Black U.S. soldiers who fought in World War II...While books have been written on the experiences of individual units and soldiers, this one takes a unique approach, making it one of the best and first truly comprehensive books on the subject. This is long overdue." - Library Journal (starred review)

"When I first learned about World War II, little was said about the role Black Americans played in the war effort. I wish Half American had been in my classrooms. Matthew F. Delmont's book is filled with compelling narratives that outline with nuance, rigor, and complexity how Black Americans fought for this country abroad while simultaneously fighting for their rights here in the​ United States. Half American belongs firmly within the canon of indispensable World War II books." - Clint Smith, author of How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

"Half American is a triumph of eloquence and erudition. Historian Matthew Delmont sheds invigoratingly bold and new light on the dual struggle to end racial injustice at home and internationally during the Second World War. This expert distillation of the wartime struggle for Black dignity and citizenship reimagines the history of postwar American democracy. Through brilliantly moving personal histories that simultaneously touch the local, national, and global, Half American illuminates the depth and breadth of a 'Double V' campaign that, in many ways, never truly ended." - Peniel E. Joseph, author of The Third Reconstruction: America's Struggle for Racial Justice in the Twenty-First Century

"Matthew F. Delmont's Half American is a bold, searing, and moving account of the courageous Black men and women who served during World War II. While their stories and contributions are too often sidelined in American popular narratives, Delmont's brilliant book skillfully weaves together insights from an array of archival records and military documents to place Black Americans at the center of the story. With rigor, passion, and depth of analysis, Delmont compellingly demonstrates that Black participation was absolutely essential to American victory during World War II. This is a must-read for anyone interested in race, American democracy, and military history." - Keisha N. Blain, coeditor of Four Hundred Souls and author of Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America

This information about Half American was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Matthew Delmont is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of History at Dartmouth College. A Guggenheim Fellow and expert on African American history and the history of civil rights, he is the author of four books: Black Quotidian, Why Busing Failed, Making Roots, and The Nicest Kids in Town. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, NPR, and several academic journals. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Delmont earned his B.A from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Brown University.

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