Yale exhibit explores struggle over American identity during WWI
By Mike Cummings
via the yale.edu web site
The black-and-white photograph shows four African American soldiers posed beside a solitary grave in the French countryside at the close of World War I.
Soldiers pose at the grave of Quentin Roosevelt — the youngest of Theodore Roosevelt’s four sons to serve in France. An aviator, Roosevelt was killed in aerial combat at age 20. His famous name made his grave a pilgrimage site for American servicemen.An ornamental enclosure surrounds the grave, which is marked by a large decorative cross. It is the burial site of Quentin Roosevelt, a fighter pilot and the son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, one of the fiercest advocates for American involvement in the war. The Germans had buried the younger Roosevelt where his plane had fallen on July 14, 1918. The grave had become a pilgrimage site for American soldiers, who were drawn there by the dead man’s famous name.
The image is featured in “An American and Nothing Else: The Great War and the Battle for National Belonging,” an exhibition that opened on Feb. 12 in the Memorabilia Room at Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library. Curated by Anna Duensing, a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History and the Department of African American Studies, the show examines the America’s involvement in World War I from the perspective of the country’s most marginalized residents, particularly African Americans and immigrant communities.
The exhibit draws on materials — including photographs, posters, pamphlets, and propaganda pieces — housed at Yale University Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Department and the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The Beinecke’s Randolph Linsly Simpson African-American Collection, which depicts African American life from the 1850s to the 1940s, was a particularly important resource, Duensing said.
The patriotic fervor surrounding the nation’s war mobilization occurred against a backdrop of protest, racial violence, and nativism on the home front. About one-third of Americans at the time were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Jim Crow controlled the South and the Great Migration of southern blacks to northern cities was underway. It was a period of upheaval and hypocrisy in which the United States proclaimed itself a beacon of freedom and democracy while subjecting many of its own people to injustice and oppression, Duensing said.
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Professor: World War I's legacy mixed in Montana
By Kristen Inbody
via the Great Falls Tribune (MT) web site
The most significant result of World War I: The world as it is now, the good and bad.
A less noted consequence was closing hours for the bars in Butte, said Harry Fritz, a popular and award-winning history professor at the University of Montana, at the February 16 "U to You" lecture at Great Falls College-Montana State University.
Harry Fritz, University of Montana history professor, describes the consequences of World War I at the February 16 U to You lecture in Great Falls. (Photo: TRIBUNE PHOTO/KRISTEN INBODY)Butte bar owners used to pitch the key to the front door when they opened the bar since the doors would never close in that 24/7 city. That changed, like everything, with the advent of war.
Empires fell. Monarchies ended. Power shifted. Millions died. The lines of another century of conflict were cemented. A flu pandemic.
In Montana, the war has a mixed legacy.
"Montana's economy boomed during the Great War. The homestead era reached its peak. The sex ratio evened out for the first time. Ample rainfall. High commodity prices. Farmers didn't have a better year until the 1970s," Fritz said. "Anaconda couldn't produce copper fast enough ... Butte likes to claim to this day it won the first world war by producing copper."
In Montana, the war doomed the progressive movement that had given the state women's suffrage, workers' compensation, the election of Jeannette Rankin and other reform-minded leaders that held a national profile and Prohibition, "which some people call a reform, but I call it the absolute succession from the civilized world ... though Prohibition had one beneficial aspect in Montana. It resulted in the discovery of Canada."
Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, represented a state with a huge Irish population, a significant German population and Finns, Fritz said."Rankin was an authentic pacifist, and she represented a sizable anti-war constituency," he said.
She was elected at-large but then the state changed to district elections and she came in second on the Republican primary. The whole move to districts may have been designed to prevent her re-election, Fritz said.
"Many in Montana thought it (entering the war) was a mistake, and there are a number of historians who would second that, but my perspective is Germany was torpedoing American ships and killing Americans so what were we supposed to do?" Fritz said.
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