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Duty beyond the Battlefield

Duty beyond the Battlefield

African American Soldiers Fight for Racial Uplift, Citizenship, and Manhood, 1870–1920

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Le'Trice D. Donaldson


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
216 pages, 6 x 9, 21 illustrations


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Table of Contents

About the Book

In a bold departure from previous scholarship, Le’Trice D. Donaldson locates the often overlooked era between the Civil War and the end of World War I as the beginning of black soldiers’ involvement in the long struggle for civil rights. Donaldson traces the evolution of these soldiers as they used their military service to challenge white notions of an African American second-class citizenry and forged a new identity as freedom fighters willing to demand the rights of full citizenship and manhood.

Through extensive research, Donaldson not only illuminates this evolution but also interrogates the association between masculinity and citizenship and the ways in which performing manhood through military service influenced how these men struggled for racial uplift. Following the Buffalo soldier units and two regular army infantry units from the frontier and the Mexican border to Mexico, Cuba, and the Philippines, Donaldson investigates how these locations and the wars therein provide windows into how the soldiers’ struggles influenced black life and status within the United States.

Continuing to probe the idea of what it meant to be a military race man—a man concerned with the uplift of the black race who followed the philosophy of progress—Donaldson contrasts the histories of officers Henry Flipper and Charles Young, two soldiers who saw their roles and responsibilities as black military officers very differently.

Duty beyond the Battlefield demonstrates that from the 1870s to 1920s military race men laid the foundation for the “New Negro” movement and the rise of Black Nationalism that influenced the future leaders of the twentieth century Civil Rights movement.


 Le’Trice D. Donaldson, an assistant professor of African American and U.S. history at the Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, is the author of A Voyage through the African American Experience.


"Duty beyond the Battlefield is meticulously researched and provides a new understanding of the complexity of Black military service during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Donaldson makes an invaluable contribution not only to military history but also to African American history."—Maurice Gipson, The Journal of African American History

"Duty beyond the Battlefield is instructive of the African American military experience and the black struggle for equality since the Civil War. Its nuanced analysis of black regulars in nineteenth-century American is a welcome addition to recent literature that has begun to see black soldiers as exemplars of racial uplift during the entrenchment of Jim Crow segregation."—Robert F. Jefferson, Pacific Historical Review

“In shining a light on this oft-overlooked period of American history, Donaldson expands the traditional narrative of America’s Civil Rights movement, arguing the movement from these soldiers’ struggles and triumphs.”—Jeffery Webb, On Point

“Donaldson's book is highly recommended. . . . [this book] will be approachable for history buffs and for those genuinely interested in learning more about military service’s racial politics.”—Holly A. Pinheiro Jr., The Journal of Southern History

"This well-researched book fills an important historiographical void, examining the contributions of African American soldiers from 1870 to 1920. Donaldson asks hitherto unexamined questions about black troops in the period from Reconstruction through WW I, focusing closely on how they defined citizenship and manhood through interactions with the larger African American community."—J. D. Smith, CHOICE

“Deeply researched and powerfully argued, Duty beyond the Battlefield is a significant contribution to the history of black soldiers, manhood, and citizenship. With this fascinating book, Le’Trice D. Donaldson has established herself as one of the leading scholars of African American military history.”—Chad L. Williams, author of Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era
“Donaldson’s work on black masculinity and military service is a welcome addition to multiple areas of history. The role of African American men has rarely been investigated with the attention she gives to gender. These men were attacking, and offering their lives, to disprove stereotypes not just about their race but about their manhood—a core of their identities. The diminution of black males as men has deep roots in slavery, and as Dr. Donaldson shows, military service was always intended as a counterattack on ignorance.”—William Mulligan, editor of A Badger Boy in Blue: The Civil War Letters of Chauncey H. Cooke