This essay examines wartime and postwar representations of African American Pearl Harbor hero Doris Miller and offers a theoretical framework by which to understand the place of race in cultural memory of World War II. Tracing the changing meanings attached to remembering (and forgetting) Miller in the “official” discourse of the US Navy and in African American culture, I argue that, notably after the early-1970s dissolution of the draft, the navy and the state recalled the black hero only in order to proclaim racism consigned to the past. This incorporative structure of memory, which I call retroactive multiculturalism, fosters military triumphalism and diminishes recognition of historical inequality, working against racial justice by shaping the image of an already color-blind contemporary nation.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 31-61
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.