The Dilemma of the African American Soldier in the Philippine-American War, 1899-1902
Robert L. Harris, Jr.
Thesis DT 3.5 1993 B879
x, 101 leaves; 29 cm.
In February 1899, the Spanish Government ratified a peace treaty, which "entrusted" the Philippines to the United States. However, the United States military forces could not avoid conflict with the Filipinos, who declared independence. When the peace treaty was ratified, skirmishes between Filipino Nationalists and United States forces had already occurred. These skirmishes evolved into full-scale, pitched battles, and the Filipinos also used guerrilla warfare tactics to resist what they considered an American replacement of Spain as the oppressor. This turn of events in the early Spring of 1899 marks the beginning of the Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. Four Black regiments were dispatched to the Philippines in the summer of 1899.
This thesis examines the dilemma that the African American soldier faced in Philippine-American War, 1899-1902. The dilemma is defined here as a series of problematics generated by the African American soldier's role as enforcer of a foreign policy that was deeply rooted in the same white supremacist ideology that oppressed African Americans in the United States.
The racism within military life, coupled with a persistent racism that White merchants carried with them overseas, produces a context in which all of the African American soldiers in the Philippines had to grapple with racial antagonisms on a daily basis. Their response to this situation varied; however, most Black soldiers tended to emphasize their military duty and de-emphasize the ethical and racial contradiction of being a foot soldier for the "white man's burden." Most of them believed that the loyalty and patriotism expressed on the battlefield would enhance their struggle for civil and human rights at home. However, there was still, a small number of those who expressed great sympathy and even overt support for the Filipino Nationalist cause. The most radical expression of solidarity with the Filipino cause came from David Fagan, a defector from the 24th Infantry, who accepted commission with the Filipino Nationalist army, and led, for more than two years, a protracted guerrilla war against the United States.
Black soldiers' experiences in the Philippine-American War have particular dynamics unique to that historical situation; for example, in this war, Black soldiers and Filipino civilians had close social relations. In fact, out of the approximate total of 6,000 Black soldiers an estimated 700 to 1,000 of them stayed in the Philippines, married into Filipino families, and lived a civilian life there after the U.S. Army defeated the Filipino Nationalist in 1902. In spite of its particularities, the dilemma of the African American soldier in the Philippine-American War is but one narrative extracted from the broader historical contradiction that African Americans have confronted, and continue to face, when they serve in the U.S. military without having received full political, economic and social justice at home.