African-American Soldiers and the Spanish Civil War

Project Director:

Description of Project and Significance

The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives seek year long, $100,000 grant for the digital preservation of documents about African American volunteers of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Documents included in this project are contained as part of the Library’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive, located at New York University.
For many African American volunteers the Spanish Civil War presented an opportunity to further the reputation established by black battalions like the Harlem Hellfighters while fighting for democracy and equality they hoped would be emulated back in the United States. Like their white counterparts, many African Americans subscribed to leftist political ideologies like socialism and communism. Participating in the Spanish Civil War provided a point of entry to discuss the ways the United States could begin to change race relations and class disparities within its own borders. These soldiers hoped that their efforts could bring democracy to Spain while increasing their status and drawing attention to their political agendas in the States.
The website’s core documents will consist of 85 pages of newspaper and magazine articles, volunteer portraits, personal correspondence from Abraham Lincoln Brigade volunteers, and a biographical index of African American volunteers. These items were selected based upon their ability to demonstrate both the way the African Americans understood the meaning of the volunteer’s experiences as well as how the white volunteers viewed the experience of African American volunteers.
There is little information about the African Americans involved in the Spanish Civil War in other archives on the war, as a result the amount of scholarship on the subject is limited. Therefore, this site expects to draw the bulk of its viewership from three main types of visitors: researchers, educators, and their students. As this project will be associated with the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives, it will be linked to the library’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive Collection Lists, Guides, and Inventories page, making it equally available to students, researchers, and even the casual observer who are investigating some of the archive’s related subject matter.

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