OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

OAH Distinguished Lectureship program 40 years 1981-2021

Robert F. Jefferson Jr.

Portrait of Robert F. Jefferson Jr.

Robert F. Jefferson is an Associate Professor of History at the University of New Mexico where he teaches U.S. and African American history. His research interests include the African American military experience, the civil rights movement, black Western history, and disability studies. He is the author of Fighting for Hope: African American Troops of the 93rd Infantry Division in World War II and Postwar America (2008), Brothers in Valor: Battlefield Stories of the 89 African Americans Awarded the Medal of Honor (2018), and Black Veterans, Politics and Civil Rights in Twentieth-Century America: Closing Ranks (2019). Jefferson is presently at work on "The Color of Disability: The Many Lives of Vasco de Gama Hale in Twentieth-Century America" and "When Jim Crow Faced a New Army: World War Two and the Non-Segregation of the United States Military."

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

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.
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.