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Segregated Soldiers

Military Training at Historically Black Colleges in the Jim Crow South

Marcus S. Cox

Publication Year: 2013

In Segregated Soldiers, Marcus S. Cox investigates military training programs at historically black colleges and universities and demonstrates their importance to the struggle for civil rights. Examining African Americans’ attitudes toward service in the armed forces, Cox focuses on the ways in which black higher education and Reserve Officer Training Corps programs worked together to advance full citizenship rights for African Americans. Educators at black colleges supported military training as early as the late nineteenth century in hopes of improving the social, economic, and political state of black citizens. Their attitudes reflected the long-held belief of many African Americans who viewed military service as a path to equal rights. Cox begins his narrative in the decades following the Civil War, when the movement to educate blacks became an essential element in the effort to offer equality to all African Americans. ROTC training emerged as a fundamental component of black higher education, as African American educators encouraged military activities to promote discipline, upright behavior, and patriotism. These virtues, they believed, would hasten African Americans’ quest for civil rights and social progress. Using Southern University—one of the largest African American institutions of higher learning during the post–World War II era—as a case study, Cox shows how blacks’ interest in military training and service continued to rise steadily throughout the 1950s. Even in the 1960s and early 1970s, despite the growing unpopularity of the Vietnam War, the rise of black nationalism, and an expanding economy that offered African Americans enhanced economic opportunities, support for the military persisted among blacks because many believed that service in the armed forces represented the best way to advance themselves in a society in which racial discrimination flourished. Unlike recent scholarship on historically black colleges and universities, Cox’s study moves beyond institutional histories to provide a detailed examination of broader social, political, and economic issues, and demonstrates why military training programs remained a vital part of the schools’ missions.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

In retrospect, I likely would have been a county agent working with farmers in Louisiana if I had not decided to enroll in Army Reserve Officer Training at Southern University. As a matter of fact, before I made up my mind to join the Army, I requested a deferment in January 1971 so I could apply to the Farmers Home Administration for a job processing loans for small farmers....

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pp. xiii-xvi

In 1941, Matthew Woodrick Trahan left Rayne, Louisiana, a small rural town in southwest Louisiana, and was inducted into the U.S. Army. Trahan, like most African Americans of the period, had few employment opportunities in the rural community from which he came. As a recent graduate of Armstrong High School, he worked as a general carpenter with his father constructing concrete and wooden structures. He was the oldest sibling in a...


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pp. xvii-xxii

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pp. 1-9

Segregated Soldiers is about African American attitudes toward military service and how black higher education and military training programs worked in concert to advance the quest for citizenship rights. It also serves as the definitive history of military training programs at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The book is unique because

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1. Men of Color to Arms: Military Training and Service at Black Colleges in the Late Nineteenth Century

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pp. 10-29

Throughout American history, African Americans most diligently fought for the right to serve and fight in America’s armed forces. The historic connection between military service and citizenship is well documented and provides the foundation to the African American quest for civil rights and the social movement that followed. While military training and service are linked to the fight for freedom and social equality, they also reflect how...

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2. We Are All Louisianians and by That Sign All Americans: Negro Defense Training, Leadership, and War Activities at Southern University during World War II

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pp. 30-51

During World War II, African Americans made tremendous sacrifices in an effort to trade military service and wartime support for measurable social, political, and economic gains. As never before, local black communities throughout the nation participated in wartime programs and intensified their demands for social progress. The struggle for African American...

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3. Soldiering for Uncle Sam: Military Training at Southern University during the Cold War, 1946–1960

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pp. 52-73

In the post–World War II era, African Americans challenged racism and discrimination in pursuit of equal rights and better opportunities. World War II created improved social and political conditions for African Americans and provided political organizations considerable influence with the White House. In addition, the Cold War had tremendous implications for African Americans. American racism and discrimination became a source...

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4. What the People Think: African American Attitudes toward Military Training and Service, 1950–1960

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pp. 74-100

This passage from an American newspaper may sound typical of popular sentiment in 1950: America’s finest soldiers, under the capable leadership of a high-ranking officer, welcomed by grateful overseas residents. But it was not typical. The valiant doughboys in question, including Colonel Harry F. Lofton, were African Americans stationed in Gifu, Japan....

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5. Our Uniform Hasn’t Lost Its Prestige with Our People: Military Training and Service on the Bluff, 1960–1967

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pp. 101-138

Support for African American service in the armed forces persisted in the 1960s despite the upheavals of civil rights protests, the Black Power movement, and disillusionment with the war in Vietnam. Between 1960 and 1967 the civil rights thrust incorporated innovative tactics and a wider support base that included young African Americans, white Americans,...

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6. Keep Our Black Warriors Out of the Draft: The Antiwar Movement at Southern University, 1968–1973

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pp. 139-167

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the antiwar movement gained momentum and introduced a new wave of protests and demonstrations throughout the nation. Antiwar demonstrators clashed with law enforcement officials, university administrators, and working-class hawks. At many colleges and universities, military training programs were discontinued or in jeopardy of losing their appeal. Many individuals associated...

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7. Conclusion

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pp. 168-178

African American attitudes toward military service at historically black colleges and universities during the post–World War II era were reflective of attitudes in the black community. Military training and service were at the height of their popularity in the 1950s and early 1960s, but by the start of Nixon’s administration the civil rights movement, the Black Power movement, the war in Vietnam, and the antiwar movement influenced...


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pp. 179-206


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pp. 207-220


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pp. 221-232

E-ISBN-13: 9780807151778
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807151761

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 836406803
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Segregated Soldiers

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Military education -- Southern States -- History.
  • African American soldiers -- Southern States -- Training of.
  • African American soldiers -- Southern States -- History.
  • African American universities and colleges -- Southern States -- History.
  • African Americans -- Education (Higher) -- History.
  • Segregation in higher education -- Southern States -- History.
  • United States -- Armed Forces -- African Americans -- History.
  • United States -- Race relations -- History.
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