Using stark black and white illustrations, Brooks presents the story of the little-known unit, “The Harlem Hellfighters”. The first African-American unit to be sent to the front lines in WWI, the men also spent the longest number of days in combat and were heavily decorated. However, as Brooks illustrates, their success on the battlefield did little to ease race relations in the United States. Though the men fought bravely for their freedom, they were continued to be denied Civil Rights upon returning home. The graphic novel format of this piece brings the story to life and depicts very clearly the effects of racism in the U.S.
This one was great! I’m sad to say that I don’t know much about WWI (WWII gets most of the coverage in school), so I didn’t even know about the Harlem Hellfighters. I found it especially cruel that this brave unit was treated so poorly both abroad and at home after they risked their lives for their country. What’s more, their bravery did little to quell the racial tensions after the war. As civil rights continues to remain a relevant topic for the U.S., this graphic novel is an excellent piece to explore. The story is engaging and well-researched, and it sheds light on a lesser-known early civil rights battle. There’s action, adventure, some pretty heavy battle scenes, and the best part is that it’s a true story (with some fictionalized events/characters). I recommend this book to anyone who loves history, graphic novels, or adventure stories (just be warned that there are some graphic war images).
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