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American Soliders Assault West Indian


The excerpt below is taken from a London diary. It outlines the treatment of African American soldiers in England during WW2.

American Soliders Assault West Indian

The village hall is large and pleasant, and the Clerk of the Council, who sat at the receipt of custom and kept a fatherly eye on everything, is an efficient and experienced person who knows how to let things get jolly without getting out of hand.The village hall is large and pleasant, and the Clerk of the Council, who sat at the receipt of custom and kept a fatherly eye on everything, is an efficient and experienced person who knows how to let things get jolly without getting out of hand.

We had heard talk of a lot of jitterbug thrills, with the girls flying hilariously over the shoulders of their American partners. Nothing of the sort. It was a really good dance. A couple of hundred couples I suppose.

A few of the girls were in uniform; most of them came from the district, one had seen them in shops or working on the farms. One was conspicuous in a frock that swept the floor; most of them just had on their prettiest light dresses.

At ten o’clock, when the pubs closed, the numbers rapidly increased and the dancing became hotter and more expert. There seemed to me little changing of partners; mostly the boy and the girl, or at least the boys and girls of a single group of friends, stuck together. No one was drunk; everyone seemed to be enjoying it.

There had been, I was told, an unpleasing incident not long ago. The band that night contained a West Indian; the Americans, including these Southerners with the usual phobia, were, of course, contented enough to have the coloured soldier as an entertainer. They are used to that in the United States.

But when the West Indian [sic] took the floor with the wife of one of his colleagues in the band, one of the southern American boys promptly went across the room and struck him.

The band stopped; the players went to the rescue of their colleague, who was conducted out of the ball by a back way, and the show went on as if nothing had happened. But something had happened.

An English soldier, who told me of this incident, was restrained but angry and puzzled. What made these Southern boys behave in this incredibly uncivilised fashion? I told him the story of slavery and liberation, the Ku Klux Klan and about present relations of white and black in the South.

He listened gravely. But obviously nothing could or should change his view of the conduct of these Southern boys, which is a real barrier to the friendship which I could see happily developing between British and Americans.

New Statesman and Nation 19 September 1942;

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PHN0cm9uZz53b29fdmlkZW9fY2F0ZWdvcnk8L3N0cm9uZz4gLSBTZWxlY3QgYSBjYXRlZ29yeTo8L2xpPjwvdWw+