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Civil rights movement

The Harlem Hellfighters

The 369th Infantry Regiment, better known as the Harlem Hellfighters, was a mainly African American unit that saw service during the World Wars I and II.

During World War I, the 369th spent 191 days in frontline trenches, more than any other American unit, but also suffered the most losses of any American regiment, with 1,500 casualties.

The unit was initially nicknamed the Black Rattlers, though the French referred to them as Men of Bronze. The nickname the Hell-fighters was given to them by the Germans.

Historian Chad Williams stressed the importance of returning soldiers to the birth of the Civil Rights Movement.

“World War I was in many ways the beginning of the 20th-century civil rights movement. The war created opportunities for African Americans to demand their civil rights, in and outside of the Army. Moreover, the war transformed the racial and political consciousness of a generation of black people, especially those who served in the military. This would shape the activism and everyday resistance of Black people throughout the postwar period.”