Two recent releases chronicle the contentious history of blacks in the US military.
For advocates of civil rights, the buck looked as if it might stop at an accidental president named Harry Truman – and then return to sender.
There had been a discouraging line of Democratic disappointments in the White House through World War II, and some black voters thought the GOP might be a better option. After all, Truman came from a Show-Me state full of Confederate sympathizers (his mother was an "unreconstructed rebel"), hadn't shown tremendous interest in equality, and sounded like a jerk at best when he talked about blacks in private.
But Truman, no starry-eyed progressive, made a crucial decision that rocked the military and the nation. The story of his decision, and the decades of humiliation, heroism, and violence that preceded it, unfolds in the smart and insightful new book The Double V: How Wars, Protest, and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military.
In our own era, just a few weeks ago, a gun-rights advocate was roundly mocked for declaring that slaves wouldn't have been slaves if they had been armed. In fact, there was plenty of debate in the early days of the republic (and before) about whether blacks – including slaves – should carry guns. If they did, they could help win wars and protect communities. But what if they turned on their masters?
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