Clearing A Path For Democracy: Citizen Soldiers of the Fighting 8th
"Clearing A Path For Democracy: Citizen Soldiers of the Illinois Fighting 8th” was officially launched on May 31st at the DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago.
The exhibit features the story of the men of the all African-American 370th Infantry regiment who fought during the Great War with the French Army in France. The exhibition was made possible in part by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and The French Mission du centenaire de la Première Guerre mondiale in charge of the World War One Centenary in France. The exhibit, which opens to the public on June 1st, will run for approximately 3 years.
"Since 2017, the Consulate, the Cultural Service and the DuSable Museum have developed a strong partnership and friendship, working together on common projects in order to bring France and Chicago closer..." said Deputy Consul General Frédéric Cholé during the kick-off reception. He continued "The exhibit (...) is dedicated to our historical ties. It is another outstanding example of our strong collaboration which we are proud of".
The exhibit, curated by historian and guest curator Harold (Hari) Jones, tells the story of the 370th United States Infantry, a unique regiment deployed in two foreign wars with a complete complement of African American officers. It was designated the 370th United States Infantry during World War I, and the regiment was awarded more citations than any other American regiment that fought along Europe’s Western Front.
"The men, the Germans called "The Black Devils", were fearless. They perfomed with exceptional heroism, honor, selfishness and pride. Their dedication, sense of duty and sacrificed were praised by the French Army" said Deputy Consul General Cholé.
The first part of the exhibit focuses on the Chicago citizens who organized and led the Eighth Regiment and the accomplishments of the regiment before deploying to Europe during World War I.
The second part focuses on the distinguished battle record of the regiment on the Western Front and the legacy of its soldiers and officers.
Curator Hari Jones stated, “The 8th Infantry Illinois National Guard community stood as a sterling example of what could be done despite racial discrimination.” He continued, “In this exhibition, the story will be told, and this story is certain to challenge false images of Americans of African descent too often projected in the nation’s popular culture.”
DuSable Museum curator Hari Jones talks about the history showcased in the first of a two-part exhibit called “Clearing a Path for Democracy: Citizen Soldiers of the Eighth Illinois National Guard” on February 15, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times