Cover of Harlem Hellfighters. A graphic novel by Max Brooks. Courtesy of Newsweek.
Harlem Hellfighters: Disowned by America . . . Came back Heroes
Jackson Jacobson Amren King Dani Nunn Ryker Venosdel
Junior Division Group Website Word Count: 436
Picking our topic was a diplomatic process. The tactic we used was a simple one. After reading the topics on the National History Day sample topics pageand searching a little on our own, each of us chose topics that we felt were interesting. Then we all made slideshows representing our topics, and each of us presented to the group and our teacher. Next, we did a few rounds of voting. Finally, we had a winning topic, the Harlem Hellfighters. As soon as it was decided, we got straight to work.
We conducted our research by first searching our schools libraries and our county library. Through the county library we also learned how to use MOBIUS, which gave us access to books at other college and state libraries. We continued by reading books, learning and using different websites, and using our limited prior knowledge. We really wanted to find good, reliable sources so we started trying to find books, newspaper articles and as many .gov websites as possible.
Since we had never done National History Day before, but we knew previous students from our school who had made it all the way to Nationals doing a website, that gave us encouragement. Ourteacher also suggested we start off our first time by doing a website. Since we are required to learn how to make a website in our class this year, we decided that doing a website sounded like a good idea, and we knew we wanted to give it a try.
After all our time early on trying to pick the right topic, we felt like the conflict and compromise that the Harlem Hellfighters had to face was intriguing and a good fit for this year’s National History Day theme of Conflict and Compromise in History. The conflict that these men faced was one of racism and prejudice. They wanted to fight for their country, to help win the war and protect freedom. Even though they were encouraged to enlist, they were then told they could not fight alongside white Americans. The U.S. military did not want them because of their race, because they were black. Although the society did not treat the Harlem Hellfighters as equals, they were still willing to do their duty. The compromise came when these African American men were sent to the French. The compromise was far from fair, but at least now, they were put in the fight which is where they wanted to be. Fighting for our rights and risking our lives for freedom seems almost unimaginable in to us. But the Harlem Hellfighters did it willingly.