‘A Roman Holiday?’ African Americans and Italians in World War II

O'Connell, Christian ORCID: 0000-0001-5546-8389 (2021) ‘A Roman Holiday?’ African Americans and Italians in World War II. History: the Journal of the Historical Association. (In Press)

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Abstract

This article attempts to explain the positive reception of black troops in Europe by focusing on the relatively underexplored case of the Italian campaign in World War II. It suggests that African American GIs actively nurtured positive relationships with Italian civilians in a number of ways that are hidden in official military documentation, but are detectable through testimonies, photographs, newspaper reports, veteran’s surveys, and in Italian sources. By being more generous with their resources, befriending families, making efforts to learn the language, and often defying prevalent military attitudes that portrayed Italians as untrustworthy, African American GIs not only experienced liberal European attitudes, but actively fostered those attitudes by exploiting social opportunities so that they were seen as ‘goodwill ambassadors’ by the black press and by Italians. African American troops, particularly from poorer backgrounds, overcame the language barrier and formed ties with Italians worst affected by the War through empathy and a sense of shared experience. Cultivating these relationships was particularly significant given the context of racial discrimination in the American military, a situation that was compounded the presence of Fascist and Nazi anti-black propaganda that co-existed with Italian racial attitudes that ranged from fascination to fear, especially when it came to relations with Italian women.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DG Italy
E History America > E151 United States (General)
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education & Humanities > Humanities
Research Priority Areas: Culture, Continuity, and Transformation
Depositing User: Christian O'Connell
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2021 11:59
Last Modified: 22 Nov 2021 11:59
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/10366

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