Indiana University Bloomington

McNutt history lecture to discuss African American soldiers' struggles in World War I

  • Feb. 12, 2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- African American soldiers in World War I faced two struggles for democracy, one at home and one abroad, historian Jennifer D. Keene says. And their struggles opened the door to civil rights activism that burst forth a generation later.

Keene, professor of history and chair of the history department at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., will present the 2014 Paul V. McNutt Lecture at Indiana University Bloomington. She will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, in the University Club President's Room at the Indiana Memorial Union.

The annual McNutt Lecture is sponsored by the Department of History in the College of Arts and Sciences. The lecture is free and open to the public; a reception will follow.

In an abstract for the lecture, Keene notes that unofficial World War I propaganda posters within the black community presented African American soldiers as the vanguard of civil rights activism.

"Military service indeed politicized African American soldiers who initiated collective action for civil rights while in uniform and, as veterans, continued this fight through campaigns to secure veterans' benefits," she said. "This lecture will detail the soldiers' experiences as activists, symbols of black manhood and veterans."

Keene, a specialist in American military experience during World War I, is working on a book detailing the African American experience during the war. She has published several books on U.S. involvement in the war: "Doughboys, the Great War and the Remaking of America," "The United States and the First World War" and "World War I: The American Soldier Experience." She is the lead author of the textbook "Visions of America: A History of the United States" and is working on another project comparing the experiences of soldiers from the French and British empires during World War I.

A Ph.D. graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, she served as associate editor for the Encyclopedia of War and American Society. She is on the advisory board of the International Society for First World War Studies and is book review editor for the Journal of First World War Studies.

Keene has received numerous fellowships for her research, and her articles and essays have appeared in leading U.S. and international history journals and anthologies. She served as an on-camera expert for several film documentaries, including "The March of the Bonus Army," which aired nationwide on PBS stations on Memorial Day 2006.

The McNutt Lecture honors Paul V. McNutt, who was dean of the Indiana University School of Law from 1925 to 1933, then became Indiana's governor and later served as U.S. high commissioner to the Philippines, director of the Federal Security Agency and chairman of the War Manpower Commission during World War II. For more information on the lecture, contact Blake Harvey at the Department of History, 812-855-3236 or blaharve@indiana.edu.

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