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African Americans and the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection: Military Participation, Recognition, and Memory, 1898-1904


The Spanish-American War, which began in 1898, coincided with a virulent campaign of racial violence and legal segregation directed at African Americans throughout the "Jim Crow" South. As the jingoism of the day stirred American nationalism, the question of whether to support the war against Spain was much more complicated to even the most patriotic African Americans as they faced an unceasing assault on their civil rights. Utilizing numerous editorials from the black press, and letters from African Americans written to President William McKinley, the Secretary of War, the U.S. Army Adjutant General, and various state governors, this dissertation analyzes the African American response to the Spanish-American War, and discusses how they attempted to use the conflict as a new battleground in the larger struggle for equal rights. By outlining the efforts of African Americans to be allowed to volunteer for the army during the war with Spain this study shows how they considered the opportunity to fight to be a right as American citizens. Additionally, I detail how once African Americans earned the right to form volunteer regiments they strove to guarantee the fair treatment of black soldiers, and labored to insure that African American service and sacrifice was honored and remembered properly. Finally, I chart the evolution of disillusionment as it became increasingly apparent that their contribution to the war effort would not bring lasting change.

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