Friday, July 21, 2017

Today's 11:11, July 21, 2017

One-hundred years ago, the Harlem Hellfighters, a division composed of African-American soldiers in the segregated United States Army fought with distinction during World War 1, called at the time the Great War.

The global conflict officially ended at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, 1918.

That's how November 11, came to be known as Armistice Day, later Veterans' Day in the US. It was a day of joy that seemed to hold so much promise democracy, especially in the countries who fought for that system of government according to the democratic vision of President Woodrow Wilson.

Sadly, after the shooting stopped, Wilson turned a deaf ear to the calls for civil rights from the veterans of the war he had sent them to fight.

Some of the heroes who made up the the Harlem Hellfighters, the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, were, after fighting to make the world safe for democracy, on returning home to this nation, forcibly subjected to racism, segregation, and, in several tragic incidents, murder by frenzied white crowds. The federal government, under Wilson's leadership, countenanced lynchings of black citizens by whites, North and South, threatened by blacks seeking equal treatment under the law.

It had been the hope of African Americans across the country that the bravery in service of liberty exhibited by American black men during the war would legitimize their people's place in the United States and lead to fair treatment. Instead, a white suppression of African-American citizens took place which, in many ways, still exists to this day.

As an American and a Christian, that makes me both sad and angry.

[To learn more about the First World War and its aftermath, watch the excellent series The Great War, from PBS.]

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