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World War I was a transformative moment in African American history—more than 380,000 black soldiers fought and labored in the US Army during the conflict.

On and off the battlefield, at home and abroad, black soldiers left a legacy of individual and collective courage and struggle that continues to this very day.

Chad Williams

Their role in the war will be the focus of UT’s second annual Fleming-Morrow Distinguished Lecture in African-American History from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, February 23. The event will be held in Room 210 of the Alumni Memorial Building.

Chad L. Williams, associate professor and chair of the African and Afro-American Studies Department at Brandeis University, will deliver the address, “Torchbearers of Democracy: The History and Legacy of African American Soldiers in World War I.”

A book signing and refreshments will immediately follow the lecture, which is free and open to the public.

The Department of History, in partnership with the UT Center for the Study of War and Society, is sponsoring the event. The lecture is part of the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of World War I and the United States’ entry into the conflict.

“In our current moment of political and racial upheaval, the history of black soldiers and veterans reminds us how African Americans have and continue to fight to make democracy not just an ideal, but also a lived reality,” Williams said.

Williams specializes in African American and modern United States history, African American military history, the World War I era, and African American intellectual history. The University of North Carolina Press published his first book, Torchbearers of Democracy: African American Soldiers in the World War I Era, in 2010. The book has won several awards, including the 2011 Liberty Legacy Foundation Award from the Organization of American Historians and the 2011 Distinguished Book Award from the Society for Military History.

Williams is co-editor of Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism and Racial Violence and the second edition of Major Problems in African American History.

The Fleming-Morrow lecture series is named after Cynthia Griggs Fleming, a prominent historian of the civil rights movement, and John H. Morrow Jr., a distinguished military historian.



Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,

Brandon Winford (865-974-5423,