As the United States approaches a Memorial Day holiday a deeply—and it seems, hopelessly—divided nation, I find myself contemplating the life and tragic death of an American soldier. He did not die in Afghanistan or in Syria. His life was not taken at the hands of ISIS, al-Qaeda, or some other foreign adversary. Instead, he died right here in America. This brave soul died at the hands of a fellow American. His story is one most American historians are familiar with but most Americans choose to forget. Richard Collins III, who had just been commissioned as a U.S. Army lieutenant, died at the hands of a white supremacist. His tragic fate is a reminder of the honorable, and yet also tortured, legacy of the African American soldier in American history.
The following post comes from Rebecca Denne and Rachel Fulk. Denne is a first year graduate student in IUPUI’s Departments of History and Library Science. She is interested in public history and archives. Fulk is a first year graduate student in IUPUI’s Department of History. She is a teaching assistant with interests in post-1945 American history and women’s history. They were both students in Ray Haberski’s spring semester course on post-1945 United States history.
Immediately after the Cold War came to a surprisingly quiet end, many conservatives (and not a few liberals) attempted to cement the Cold War as a “good war” in the minds of the American public and proclaim a specific place for it in American collective memory. But the American people did not buy into this historical narrative. Instead of acceptance, the public condemned and questioned Cold War decisions and strategies. As a result, historical sites around the United States with the job of explaining the Cold War often apologize for actions of a nation that, at least in the conservative view, “won” the Cold War. Continue reading