Steven Spielberg's Lincoln has revived discussion of the Great Emancipator's unique empathy for the freedoms of African Americans, but for blacks in the armed forces, at least, President Harry Truman may be deserving of a similar title. In his encyclopedic and compact history, The Double V: How Wars, Protest and Harry Truman Desegregated America's Military, Rawn James Jr. writes that Truman desegregated the military by making the case for "the brotherhood of men before the law."
In The Double V (which stands for victory abroad and victory over racism at home), James writes about how tenuously white commanders and soldiers regarded the law when it came to African Americans. In a culture that regularly relies on the Tuskegee Airmen to symbolize the presence of African Americans in the military, the bloody clash of African American soldiers with racist Houstonians at Camp Logan in 1917 (which led to extended racial tension) is an uncomfortable revelation. The same is of stories from the frontlines in France, where black servicemen were treated with more equality by the French than by their American peers.
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