Robert F. Jefferson Jr.

Robert F. Jefferson Jr. is an Associate Professor of History at the University of New Mexico. His research interests include the African American military experience, the civil rights movement, the history of veterans’ movements, transnational military history, and disability studies.  Jefferson is the author of Fighting for Hope: African Americans and the Ninety-third Infantry Division in World War II and Postwar America (2008), Brothers in Valor: The Battlefield Stories of the 89 African Americans Awarded the Medal of Honor (2018), and the editor of Black Veterans, Politics, and Civil Rights in Twentieth Century America: Closing Ranks (2019).  In 2019-2020, he was a Fulbright scholar in Denmark, where he was the Distinguished Chair of American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark at Odense.  He is currently in residence as a research fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Jefferson is presently at work on a new book on the history of the Army’s officer candidate schools in World War II.

OAH Lectures by Robert F. Jefferson Jr.

For wounded African Americans returning from America's wars, disability and race represented two sides of the same coin in the fight for equality. The Modern Civil Rights Movement provided a schoolroom where they translated their attitudes towards both challenges into action.

Some of the most unforgettable stories about American citizenship took place in some of the most unlikely of places and under the most perplexing circumstances during the early twentieth century. The Trans-Mississippi West served as a crucible where the politics of war, race, and naturalization converged in the midst of the American involvement in World War Two.

From the horrors of the Civil War to the harrowing days of the Vietnam War, African Americans engaged in acts of heroism on the battlefield in ways that ultimately transformed the nation. As a result, they reshaped the country's understanding of the concept of courage and this was demonstrated in awarding of the nation's highest medal for gallantry. By fighting for equality, they were fighting for the very soul of the nation itself.

African Americans have fought in each of America's wars since the country's founding. But their military experiences in the armed struggles of the 19th and 20th century required a new understanding of freedom. Their battlefield participation reflected the ways they framed, articulated, and reflected these new perspectives.

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