History alumnus Gerald Goodwin has written an opinion piece in the New York Times as part of their Vietnam ’67 series. The full article, “Black and White in Vietnam,” is available online with a short excerpt below.
In 1967, the NBC journalist Frank McGee spent nearly a month living with soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam. Though the troops were often engaged in heavy combat, McGee had a different interest: the experiences of African-American soldiers.
McGee’s reporting, which resulted in the NBC documentary “Same Mud, Same Blood,” focused on Platoon Sgt. Lewis B. Larry, an African-American from Mississippi, and the 40 men, black and white, under his command. “Our history books have taken little notice of the Negro soldier,” McGee said in the documentary. “How do the troops of this war, black and white, want its history written?” The answer isn’t easy.
Black soldiers were nothing new in the American military, but Vietnam was the first major conflict in which they were fully integrated, and the first conflict after the civil rights revolution of the 1950s and early ’60s. Executive Order 9981 officially desegregated the armed forces in 1948, but many units remained segregated until late 1954. Other changes were afoot: The few years before McGee’s report saw passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
About Gerald Goodwin:
Gerald Goodwin graduated from Carleton in 2005. He received his Masters degree from the University of Kentucky in 2008 and his Ph.D. from Ohio University in 2014.
His dissertation is titled Race in the Crucible of War: African American Soldiers and Race Relations in the “Nam.” Since 2014 he has been teaching U.S. History, World History, and American Government at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg, Indiana and then Bloomington, Indiana. He just moved to Syracuse, New York where he will be teaching U.S. History at Onondaga Community College-State University of New York (SUNY).
From 2015-2017, he wrote numerous essays for five university-level history textbooks released by Salem Press/Grey House Publishing. In June 2017, his article “‘You and me-same same” and “They called me ‘monkey’”: Conflicting African American Views of Vietnamese Civilians was published in World History Connected. Both the articles in the New York Times and World History Connected are a part of a larger project that he is currently turning into a book.