Friday, December 29, 2006

Walter Dean Myers

Myers, Walter Dean and Bill Miles. 2006. The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage.

Walter Dean Myers is an award-winning author who writes fiction and nonfiction for young adults. He has won the Coretta Scott King Award five times! In his latest book, nonfiction, he presents the history of the 369th Infantry Regiment of World War I.

The story of the Harlem Hellfighters is not simply one of victory in a war. Indeed, it is not even one of unexpected courage, amazing feats, or a disregard of danger. The men suffered when one would have expected them to suffer, they fell wounded when hit by shapnel or bullets, and many of them died. But it is the story of men who acted as men, and who gave good accounts of themselves when so many people thought, even hoped, that they would fail. When the soldiers of the 15th New York National Guard boarded the ships that would take them to France, they took with them the hopes and dreams of an entire people. They were in the prayers of black congregations throughout the nation each Sunday morning, and in the thoughts and dreams of thousands of black families. Those who died in the trenches and amid the barbed wire did so upholding the dignity of their race and of their country. They had fought for their country, and they had proved, beyond doubt, that they had a right to fight. Those who returned to march through the streets of New York, who paraded uptown past the cheering Harlem crowds, did so as heroes. They had helped to make the world safe for democracy and had held the banner of black dignity high enough for all the world to see. Many had hoped their sacrifices would make a change in how America saw them. They had hoped that the derogatory terms so casually tossed at them by bigots would be discarded once the first man of them went over the top. In this effort, even the Harlem Hellfighters were not successful. But the men who rose from those trenches after hours of shelling, who climbed the hills and waded through the mud, who rushed across no-man’s land with bayonets pointed at the enemy, would forever be heroes to their community, and to all Americans who understood what they had accomplished. (149-150)

The Harlem Hellfighters is a great nonfiction book. Using black and white photographs and an incredible text it tells an amazing story highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the human race.

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