The Impact of Black Soldiers and Amherst College on the Civil Rights Movement

Khary Polk, the Robert E. Keiter 1957 Postdoctoral Fellow and visiting assistant professor of black studies at Amherst completed his doctoral dissertation on the African-American soldier at New York University last summer and is currently adapting the dissertation into book form. We recently spoke with Polk about the upcoming work, which he said will examine “how discourses of race and sexuality intersected within the figure of the African American soldier in the 20th century, and how black soldiers, in particular, found senses of embattled agency through their military travels outside of the United States.”

While the racial integration of the U.S. military is sometimes presented as an outcome of the civil rights movement, Polk argues that in many ways it was the black American soldier who fought on the front lines for equality, to bring home the freedom he was sworn to protect. Along the way in his research, Polk uncovered Amherst's connections to the civil rights movement in the military and beyond.


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