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On a Boat Alone: African American Wives Post WWI

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Pilgrim at Suresnes July 26 1930Pilgrim at Suresnes July 26, 1930On a Boat Alone: African American Wives Post WWI​
Black History Month has given the Centennial Commission the opportunity to showcase the achievements of African Americans during WWI. One of WWrite’s latest posts about writer and suffragist Ida B. Well’s influence on Major Jasmine Motupalli’s military career highlighted the increased presence of political activism among African American women in the US during the WWI era (Major Motupalli's Post). WWI Centennial News reposted a Military Times article by former Illinois Senator and Ambassador to New Zealand, Carol Mosely Braun, in which she honors African American combat accomplishments in France. Her own grandfather, Thomas Davie, was posthumously awarded a U.S. Victory medal and fought in the Meuse-Argonne battle (Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun Article Link). This week, I wanted to talk about the wives of African American servicemen killed in combat.

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Major Jasmine Walker Motupalli Reveals Historically-Influenced Path: Iraq and Afghanistan Inspired by Ida B. Wells' WWI Fight

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Major Jasmine Walker Motupalli Reveals Historically-Influenced Path: Iraq and Afghanistan Inspired by Ida B. Wells' WWI FightJasmine Montupalli Logar Province PhotoMAJ Jasmine Motupalli in Logar Province, Afghanistan, with civilian children and fellow soldier

*As a veteran of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, where I served as an intelligence officer, I often think about how different my life might have been had I lived in a different period of history. A quick look at most American wars tells me that I would have never been an officer. I would have never been on the front line. But I do know that I would have done whatever I could to fight the fight. As a black woman during World War I, perhaps I might have been supporting the war effort at home by working in factory jobs vacated by men. Perhaps I would have chosen to prove my patriotism by serving as a nurse for the segregated black units in the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. Ida B.Wells PhotoIda B.Wells

But, in the face of inequality, I tend to be a bit rebellious and, even in 1914-1918, I’m pretty sure I would have tried to break the ceiling even further. During this time, I would have followed one of my heroes, Ida B. Wells, journalist, suffragist, editor, and activist. She fought for voting rights and equal treatment for women who looked like me. During WWI, she sold Liberty Bonds and distributed care packages to black soldiers. But her fight didn’t stop there. She worked to defend black men falsely accused of crimes throughout the country. Following the Houston Race Riot of 1917, she fiercely protested the hanging of 13 black soldiers hung by a military court without recourse to appeal or review by the president.

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Graphic Novels and Native American WWI Soldiers

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Graphic Novels and Native American WWI Soldiers

Soldiers Unknown CoverCover artwork of SOLDIERS UNKNOWN by Chag Lowry and Rahsan EkedalThis week, the U.S. WWI Centennial Commission DISPATCH featured an interview with Chag Lowry, a Native American graphic artist, who has a new book coming out, SOLDIERS UNKNOWN. Inspired by the history of two great-great-uncles who served in WWI, SOLDIERS UNKNOWN, Lowry teamed up with artist Rahsan Ekedal to write about the 91st Infantry Division's experience in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

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WWrite Veteran Blog Contributors Meet in Washington to Talk about Writing and War

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WWrite Veteran Blog Contributors Meet at Washington Conference to Talk about Writing and War

AWP 2017 LogoWWrite bloggers continue the conversation beyond WWI! On Thursday, February 9th, three WWrite veteran blog contributors came together at the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Washington D.C. to talk about their writing and war experience. Each year, over 12,000 people join the contemporary American writing community for four days of dialogue with panels, lectures, and a book fair. It is the largest literary conference in the country.

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Benjamin Busch, Take Two! Busch Returns to Iraq in "Today is Better than Tomorrow:" A British WWI Cemetery Revisited Ten Years After Serving in the Iraq War

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Benjamin Busch Kut Iraq 23 2013 Harpers

"Today is Better than Tomorrow": A British Cemetery Revisited Ten Years After Serving in the Iraq War


Actor, writer, filmmaker, and photographer Benjamin Busch follows up on last week's post about discovering a WWI Cemetery in Iraq. Here, Busch speaks about his return to Iraq in 2013 as a journalist. He discovers the British WWI cemetery he visited and cared for ten years earlier has been destroyed. Busch was a Marine who led a Light Armored Reconnaissance unit during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and operated around the city of Kut.This excerpt, from his essay "Today is Better Than Tomorrow," that appeared in Harper's Magazine October 2014It is reprinted here by permission. All photographs by the author.

My photographs have been kept in an order absent of chronolo­gy: a blindfolded skull, a pile of boots, an English gravestone, a child waving. I never labeled them, just ex­pected I would remember like every­one does. Seven months of circum­stantial evidence. Military mobile exchanges only sold 400-speed film, meant to shoot subjects in lower light, so the reduced resolution is no­ticeable when the pictures are en­larged, their definition becoming in­creasingly granular, as if composed of pressed dust. The imperfection of vi­sion is at work, the flickering of lines, the involuntary squint to identify, exactly, what you're seeing, the desert going from vast and static to pulsing and immediate, like memory does.

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Benjamin Busch, a U.S. Marine, Discovers British WWI Cemetery During Iraq War. Excerpt from his memoir, Dust to Dust

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Benjamin Busch, a U.S. Marine, Discovers British WWI Cemetery During Iraq War. Excerpt from his memoir, Dust to Dust. 

Actor, writer, filmmaker, and photographer Benjamin Busch was a Marine who led a Light Armored Reconnaissance unit during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and operated around the city of Kut.This excerpt is from his memoir, Dust to Dust, in which he notes the last surviving evidence of WWI in the region—a British war cemetery.

By the end of May 2003, we had been told that the war had transitioned into security and stabilization operations. This was a post-hostilities phase and we were to focus on hearts-and-minds projects. General Mattis had ordered our focus to be on school rehabilitation and that required me to go to the city of Kut, capital of the Wasit Province, for which my unit had become largely responsible. It was the only place that I could purchase electrical wire, paint, concrete, pipe, and plaster.

In a back street, my patrol came across the Kut war cemetery.It had been found covered in several feet of garbage by Marines in Task Force Tarawa during the invasion, and they had cleaned and rededicated it to the British.

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