Wednesday, August 17, 2011

From Baltimore to Battle: Michael DeMond Davis's Coverage of the Vietnam War

by Zachary Kwartler    
re-use is permitted "under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (CC-BY-SA), version 3.0,  
       From July to November 1967, Michael DeMond Davis published over 100 articles as the Vietnam War correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American. In the words of his daughter, Davis left his job as one of the few African American reporters at major newspapers such as the Atlanta Constitution in order to “give a voice to African-American soldier and share with people of color back home what was going on in other parts of the world.”[2] Davis’s articles, published at a time when domestic opposition to the Vietnam War had caused a rift amongst civil rights activists in the United States, complicated activists’ claims that the war had detracted from the black freedom struggle in America. Yet historical accounts of the U.S. media in Vietnam, the experience of African American  soldiers, and the connection between the anti-war and civil rights movements have failed to recognize Davis’s work.
Davis’s unique position as a African American  war correspondent exposed the troubling relationship between the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Many accounts on Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement examine the war from the vantage point of civil rights activists. Davis’s articles, on the other hand, examined the Civil Rights Movement through the experience of black soldiers in Vietnam. Davis’s stories on the economic empowerment of black soldiers, tales of individual valor, and relations between whites and blacks in the military portrayed the situation of black soldiers in Vietnam as preferable to the position of blacks in the United States. At the same time, this observation implied the sad reality that black soldiers in Vietnam had to risk their lives in battle halfway across the world to be treated on the same terms as white soldiers.

Most historical accounts of black soldiers in Vietnam focus on their disproportionate personal sacrifice and the tacit repression of the U.S. military apparatus. Historian Simon Hall writes that while blacks made up just 10 percent of the U.S. population, black soldiers constituted 20 percent of the American military in Vietnam. Moreover, Hall points out that a much larger percentage of eligible black soldiers were drafted since they could not use college as an excuse to defer their military appointments.[3] Historian James Westheider adds: “The military was often [African-Americans’] first direct exposure to a power structure directly controlled and dominated by whites, It was only natural that they viewed this system with the utmost suspicion.”[4] Wallace Terry, a former writer for Time, describes the war’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement in 1967: “[It] was destroying the bright promises for social and economic change in the black community.”[5]

Many civil rights activists viewed the treatment of blacks in the military with suspicion and derision. Following a voter registration drive in Lowndes County, Alabama in January 1966, a white gas station attendant shot and killed Sammy Younge, a Tuskegee Institute student and Navy veteran. An all-white jury found the gas station attendant not guilty of murder.[6] In response to Younge’s death, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee issued a position paper condemning the Vietnam War. “Our work, particularly in the South,” SNCC stated, “has taught us that the United States government has never guaranteed the freedom of oppressed citizens, and is not yet truly determined to end the rule of terror and oppression within its own borders.” The paper then decried the hypocrisy of U.S. involvement in Vietnam: “The United States is no respecter of persons or law when such persons or laws run counter to its needs or desires.”[7] Later in the year, Stokely Carmichael, the chairman of SNCC, argued that if the U.S. government could commit billions of dollars to the freedom of South Vietnamese citizens, it could dedicate some funds to the freedom of blacks in the United States.[8]
The reallocation of government money from programs of social uplift in America to the U.S. war effort in Vietnam prompted black citizens to oppose the war in larger numbers than any other demographic group in the country. In 1966, Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight-boxing champion of the world, was sentenced to five years in jail and fined $10,000 for refusing to serve in Vietnam. Prior to his jail sentence, Ali had famously declared his opposition to the war: “I ain’t got quarrel with the Viet Cong.”[9] The next year, an April 1967 Chicago Defender survey revealed that 57.3 percent of blacks supported the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam.[10]
Black opposition to the Vietnam War reached a new height on April 4, 1967 when Martin Luther King, Jr. publicly protested the Johnson administration’s war policy for the first time. King explained how the war had detracted from the Civil Rights Movement: “A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor – both black and white – through the poverty program.” But after the introduction of U.S. ground troops into Vietnam, King commented, this program had been “broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad at war.”[11] Mainstream newspapers such as the New York Times and moderate civil rights organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People condemned King’s views on the war. As prominent civil rights leaders criticized the Vietnam War at an increased rate, Michael DeMond Davis traveled to the country to form his own opinions on the experience of black soldiers in the war.

Michael DeMond Davis’s early life intersected with various strains of civil rights activism in the United States. Davis’s father, John P. Davis, a protégé of W.E.B. Dubois, had graduated from Bates College in 1926 and then received a law degree from Harvard University in 1934 under the tutelage of Felix Frankfurter who would go on to be the associate justice of the U. S. Supreme Court.[12] In 1934, Davis founded the National Negro Congress with the goal, according to the historian Thomas Sugrue, of “[assembling] the broadest possible coalition of advocates for racial equality.” The base of the NNC’s program, Sugrue writes, “was the recognition that the problem of racial inequality was fundamentally economic and the solution required addressing the impoverishment of whites and blacks alike.”[13] Twelve years after starting the NNC, Davis founded Our World magazine and served as its publisher for the next two decades while living amongst the “black bourgeoisie” in New York City.[14]
Though Michael DeMond Davis had attended the Fieldston School where he had “prepared for an Ivy League education,” he enrolled at Morehouse College in 1958.[15] Attending Morehouse transformed Davis’s view on race relations in the United States. As Davis wrote: “Most of the schools’ northern students had not experienced overt segregation until they arrived firsthand in Atlanta. Many were from affluent families that sheltered them from even the subtle vestiges of segregation and discrimination.” Still, Davis quickly grew “aware of racial and political conditions in the city and the state.”[16]
  At Morehouse, Davis helped engineer the Atlanta Sit-in Movement and was close friends with fellow students Julian Bond, Lonnie King and Marion Wright. King and Bond had organized the Atlanta protest after learning of a similar demonstration by four North Carolina A&T students in February 1960. In April, Bond, King, Davis and other student Morehouse met with the presidents of Atlanta’s six black colleges. In the meeting, Davis described the students as unwilling to “march to the slow beat of Atlanta’s old guard’s drum.”[17] Michelle Davis described the impact that Morehouse had on her father: “The activism of being in Atlanta under Martin Luther King and all that occurred in the 1960s … that was the calling to go to the Afro-American.”[18]
Though Davis’s specific role in the Atlanta sit-ins is not well documented, he had a similar background to Bond, the movement’s leader. Bond was educated at a Pennsylvania prep school and had previously served as an intern at Time. Lonnie King described Bond’s importance to the Atlanta sit-ins: “Julian had a reputation for being an excellent writer, and my feeling was that the movement’s point of view had to be articulated by young people in as logical and coherent a fashion as possible.”[19] Davis, a talented writer from the East Coast, likely filled a similar role in the movement.
After Davis graduated from Morehouse, future Pulitzer Prize-winner Eugene Patterson helped him land a job at the Atlanta Constitution. At the time, Davis was one of the few black journalists in the country employed by a mainstream newspaper in the South. Still, Davis abandoned his job at the Constitution when the Baltimore Afro-American offered him the chance to serve as its Vietnam War correspondent in the spring of 1967. Michelle Davis explained her father’s decision to take the position at the smaller newspaper: “That was a downgrade. I think the carrot was the opportunity to be a war correspondent…. It’s a clique to be a foreign news correspondent.”[20] In July 1967, Davis arrived in Vietnam to report on the war for the Afro-American.
Though its circulation had decreased from its peak in the 1940s, the Afro-American still reached a large audience in 13 states when Davis took his position with the paper. At the time, the Afro-American – called the Afro by its followers – was one of the most popular black newspapers in the country, along with the Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier and New York Amsterdam News.
Before Davis started his work as a war correspondent, the Afro was more critical of the slow pace of social progress in the United States than it was of the Johnson administration’s policy toward Vietnam. A January 1966 editorial in the Afro expressed concern over the necessity of the Vietnam War and its negative impact on the war on poverty: “No matter how long and how strenuously the administration defends the priority of Vietnam, the feeling will still persist in the ghetto, that another promise has been broken…. Once this happens, no one can say what tragedies will be formed in the seething cauldron that is the ghetto.”[21] The Afro took a much firmer stance against white violence in the South than it did against the Vietnam War. A February 1966 editorial stated: “[S]outhern ‘justice’ will be carried out as it has been for a century – in sudden, brief, murderous outbursts. The difference will be that white southerners will find themselves among the victims too. It will be a bloody harvest they have sown.”[22] The Afro’s views on the war and civil rights differed from statements by civil rights leaders such as King and Carmichael, who combined the two issues to make a larger indictment of race relations in the United States.
Rather than focus on the U.S. military’s operational progress in Vietnam, Davis’s reporting dealt primarily with the experience of black soldiers. Michelle Davis describes her father’s goal as a reporter: “He wanted to tell the truth about the African American Soldier and write about the African American life. When you get a story out, you have a voice, when you get a voice out your raise consciousness, then you can raise collective consciousness.”[23] Throughout Davis’s stay in Vietnam, his dispatches captured the individual experiences of black soldiers – an element of the war that was absent from the reports of most correspondents.
Many of Davis’s articles described the favorable economic benefits and work promotions that black soldiers could accrue in the military relative to their opportunities for employment in the United States. In a July 22 article, Davis wrote of black soldiers who wanted to remain in the military: “These men feel it is the only place they will be allowed to practice the kind of employment they enjoy.”[24] One month later, Davis quoted Maj. Beauregard Brown III – “one of the leading and outstanding figures in the drama of war” – in support of this view. As Brown explained: “[The black soldier] has found in Vietnam an unlimited opportunity for individual achievement and accomplishment and I think the only tragedy is that the folks at home don’t fully understand and appreciate how critical this struggle is and how it relates to their own security and well being.”[25]
Davis’s analysis of the improved employment opportunities that black soldiers found in the military fits with other accounts of the war. Historian Herman Graham III writes of this phenomenon: “The African-American men who volunteered for military service did so because there were few good jobs available to them in the private sector.”[26] Davis recognized that the chance for promotion came at an increased cost to black soldiers. In his first article from Vietnam, Davis noted that many black soldiers volunteered for high-risk jobs since they viewed this decision as the fastest way to increase their military rank.[27]
Davis’s reports also captured the improved social relations between black and white soldiers that were in the same combat units. Graham writes of this trend: “During firefights, [black and white soldiers] experienced adversity and tragedy together. Passing the time during long stretches when they did not make contact with enemy, men shared their life stories and commiserated about life in the ’Nam.”[28] In one powerful passage, Davis described a battalion emerging from the jungle: “All of them, dressed in jungle fatigues, were covered from head to foot with thick, black jungle mud. Their faces were caked with mud, as they made their way up the hill and into camp. Only as they came closer could you tell which were white and which were colored.”[29] In another article, Davis described the views of Leslie Drexler, a white soldier from Alabama, on black soldiers: “I never had much to do with colored guys back home but I’ve jumped into Charlie land with a lot of them – been through a lot – and I’d rather go into battle with them than anyone else.”[30]
Davis highlighted the importance of shared battlefield experiences in bringing white and black soldiers closer together: “He has watched white and black men kneel and pray together, share the same can of beans and drink from a common cup.”[31] Though Herman Graham writes that the improved relations between white and black soldiers occurred only amongst units in the field, Davis argued that the self-segregation of barracked soldiers did not undermine the bonds that they formed in combat.[32] Davis noted that this segregation was “not the result of acceptance of any of the black power doctrines, it is, conversely, a longing to be with those who speak the same language, have suffered the same misfortunes and have been reared around familiar surroundings.”[33] Pfc. Evans Miller explained the self-segregation of whites and blacks in the military: “I don’t have nothing against the Chucks … but they just ain’t done with it.”[34]
Many of the soldiers that Davis interviewed expressed frustration with the anti-war views of prominent black leaders. Davis described the views of Pfc. Booker James of Atlanta: “King has done a lot for us. He’s my hometown boy, but I think he’s all wrong on the Vietnam issue. He should stay in civil rights where we really need him.”[35] Michael Douglass, another black soldier, expressed similar disappointment toward Ali’s refusal to serve in Vietnam: “Clay was my number one cat but now he’s blown his cool. All he had to do was go to the army like anybody else…. He would have been a celebrity.”[36] Davis also provided extensive coverage to National Urban League president Whitney Young’s tour of Vietnam in September 1967. One year earlier, Young had refused to support SNCC activist James Meredith in his march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.[37] In one of Davis’s dispatches, Young described Carmichael as “discredited” and “an ideological little deviate.”[38]
Davis argued that the return of black soldiers from Vietnam provided an opportunity to change relations between whites and blacks in the United States. Each year, Davis pointed out, approximately 15,000 black soldiers would return home from combat duty. Davis described the implications of this trend: “When the GI gets home, he is going back to his little town and when that same white man that has been calling him ‘boy’ all his life calls him boy again, is he going to answer ‘yes sir?’”[39] Davis accepted the possibility that black soldiers could return home from Vietnam with a more militant attitude toward white repression. Pfc. Stanley Williams typified this view: “I know fellows who have been taught to make nitro out of common household products. Some fellows can kill a man with a single blow and some can blow up a ten-story building. Do you think they are going to take any stuff when they get home? … Hell no.”[40]
Rather than support the views of soldiers like Stanley Williams, Davis argued that the experience of blacks in Vietnam would have a positive effect on race relations in the U.S. Reflecting on his time in Vietnam, Davis wrote: “If any lesson is to be learned in the classroom of Vietnam it is that democracy can work – that men can live together – even under the most trying circumstances.”[41] Similarly, Davis hoped that white soldiers such as Leslie Drexler would describe the valor of their black comrades. “[Drexler] confesses that he will still have little to do with colored people when he returns to his native state of Alabama,” Davis wrote. “But perhaps the Drexlers of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia will be able to deliver the ‘message’ to the people back home.”[42]
Davis’s dispatches from Vietnam reflected the contradiction that black soldiers who risked their lives in the military received better employment opportunities than black civilians in the United States. Moreover, Davis repeatedly noted that the social tension that typified relations between blacks and whites in the United States rarely extended to soldiers in the battlefield. Graham writes of this trend: “High-paying jobs were only part of the appeal for black volunteers. The military offered them status, responsibility, and the camaraderie of the homosocial world.”[43] Davis’s views on the war differed from civil rights leaders such as King and Carmichael, who described the deployment of black soldiers to Vietnam as another symbol of the U.S. government’s injustice. Though Davis wrote of the benefits that black soldiers received relative to black civilians, he realized this experience would be wasted if it did not continue in the United States.
Davis’s articles on Vietnam mirrored the views expressed in the mainstream black magazines Ebony and Jet in the mid-1960s. Though both publications were more concerned with domestic issues than the war, each published a few articles on the experience of black soldiers in Vietnam. In 1965, Simeon Booker, Jet’s Washington Bureau Chief, traveled to Vietnam to write on the experience of blacks in the U.S. military. Like Davis, Booker focused his writing on the pace of desegregation in the military and the individual valor of black soldiers. Booker wrote of the integration of the army: “The U.S. army, strange as it may seem, has outdone the Air Force in giving Negro pilots a break – in Vietnam. The score: Army – 6. Air Force – 0.”[44] Two weeks later, Booker wrote of a helicopter team piloted by black soldiers: “‘Bad News,’ I thought, was a helluva ship and boasted a brave crew. They made a man of me in Vietnam.”[45]
The few articles that Ebony published on Vietnam also described the war’s impact on race relations in the United States. In June, Ragni Lantz reported on a parade thrown for Lawrence Joel, a black soldier from Winston-Salem who had received the Medal of Honor. As Lantz explained: “The overwhelming public response … was a stunning tribute to a Negro son by a Southern community. The success of the day showed that the racial climate in Winston-Salem had indeed changed.”[46] Two months later, in a special issue on “Negro Youth in America,” an untitled article discussed the reason that many blacks joined the military: “It boils down to the fact that for many Negro youth, military service with its regimentation and all its danger, is a better life with more promise than they can find outside.”[47] The article also echoed Davis’s view that the return of black soldiers to America could change domestic relations between blacks and whites.
The mainstream white press offered a harsher critique of U.S. military operations in Vietnam during the second half of 1967 than Davis provided in his articles. While press coverage of Vietnam was largely positive through the spring of 1967, historian Clarence Wyatt argues that this trend started to change in the second half of the year. In August, Gen. William Westmoreland, the head of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, said of New York Times correspondent R.W. Apple: “I have watched Apple become more critical and argumentative during recent months. Barring some dramatic and irrefutable turn for the better here we can expect him to continue to play the role of doubter and critic.”[48] Two months earlier, Hedley Donovan, who had taken over the position of editor-in-chief of Time and Life magazines from Henry Luce, remarked in Life: “Some over optimistic Americans (this writer included) had expected to see by now the beginnings of real momentum in Vietnam…. It certainly hasn’t happened yet.”[49]
Unlike Apple and Donovan, Davis described the South Vietnamese pacification program, a critical component of the U.S. military mission in Vietnam, as a military success. In a November article, Davis observed: “With the aid of the government the people of South Vietnam are making progress in the fields of economic, social, political and cultural development…. With the full utilization of the pacification program, South Vietnam may become a nation of peace and tranquility.”[50] Though Davis did not criticize administration reports on U.S. military progress in his articles, he frequently offered grim descriptions of the individual suffering endured by black soldiers in battle.
                                                              Michael DeMond Davis in Vietnam
Though Davis’s views on Vietnam in 1967 appeared positive in relation to the statements of moderate civil rights leaders like King, his opinion on the war quickly worsened after his tour of Vietnam ended in October. Davis returned to the United States during a complicated period of the civil rights movement. While Carl Stokes’ victory in the Cleveland mayoral election in November 1967 seemed like a major triumph for black political representation, many activist groups grew frustrated with the slow pace of economic and social change in the United States. The opening of many new chapters of the Black Panther Party in the winter of 1968 and the radicalization of SNCC offered two examples of this development.
Once he returned to the United States, Davis quickly saw that the scenes of black empowerment and improved race relations that he had observed in Vietnam had not changed the position of blacks in America. In a February 1968 speech at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, Davis offered a more negative assessment of white repression of blacks in Vietnam than he had ever provided while serving as the Afro’s war correspondent. Davis argued that the reason black soldiers volunteered for high risk positions in the military resulted from an “attempt on the part of white society to emasculate the black male American. It is a result of an attempt on the part of the white majority to make the black female the central dominant figure in the black family structure.” Davis added that when black soldiers returned from Vietnam, they would “expect a fair share of the fruits of democracy that they have been fighting to establish 10,000 miles from home.”[51] Davis’s views in this speech differed in tone from his dispatches as a war correspondent. Moreover, his accusation that white society had tried to “emasculate” black males reflected the ways in which civil rights activists linked the mistreatment of black soldiers in Vietnam with the plight of black civilians in America.
One week after his speech at the Enoch Pratt Library, Davis was pinned down by gunfire while reporting on a riot in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Three protestors died in the riot and approximately 50 others, including Cleveland Sellers of SNCC, were injured. The next day, Davis wrote of the riot in Orangeburg: “I was more frightened out there than I ever was in Vietnam. You don’t know. I thought one of those guys would shoot me for sure.”[52] During the riot, a South Carolina state trooper had arrested Davis and taken him to the county jail even after a reporter for NBC and UPI told the officer that Davis was a member of the press.[53] Davis’s views on the riot recalled a memo that he had written while in Vietnam. In August, Davis had commented in a brief dispatch that referenced the race riots in Spanish Harlem and Detroit: “From what I can understand, I am a lot safer over here in Vietnam that I would be back in the States…. If it gets any worse, I’ll send you a couple of sets of fatigues and a flak jacket or two.”[54] Though Davis had written his earlier comment in jest, the riot in Orangeburg reflected the fact that many blacks in the military encountered greater social and physical repression after returning home from Vietnam.
The Afro’s coverage of the war after Davis returned from Vietnam mirrored the former correspondent’s increasingly negative outlook on the conflict. Historian Hayward Farrar writes of the Afro’s position on the conflict: “As public opinion turned against the war in the late 1960s, so did the Afro.”[55] Two months after Davis returned from Vietnam, the Afro published a bitter letter from a black soldier on his experience in the war. “This is absolutely one of the worst shams ever perpetrated on a black man,” the untitled letter opened. “To me, as a black man, the army is a mechanism for teaching us ‘our basic position and posture in America;’ subservience and minimum white standards.” The soldier concluded: “My time in the army has served to sever any allegiance to the democratic process, white religion, etc. and other white goodies.”[56] Over the next two years, as opposition to the war mounted, the Afro published a series of editorials that supported peace in Vietnam.[57]
                                                           Michael DeMond Davis in Vietnam
Davis’s experience in the Orangeburg riot predicted the deteriorating situation of black soldiers and veterans over the next four years. As Wallace Terry writes: “[Black veterans] hoped to come home to more than they had before; they came home to less. Black unemployment among black veterans [was] more than double the rate for white veterans. The doors to the Great society had been shut.”[58] Terry’s observation recalled SNCC’s opposition to the war in 1966. SNCC’s position paper stated: “We maintain that our country’s cry of ‘preserve freedom in the world’ is a hypocritical mask, behind which it squashes liberation movements which are not bound, and refuse to be bound, by the expediencies of United States cold war policies.”[59] Indeed, Davis’s experience reporting on black soldiers in Vietnam and the suppression of black protestors that he witnessed in Orangeburg reflected SNCC’s earlier views.
            In the end, Davis’s experience in Vietnam offers two major messages: one personal and the other societal. Michelle Davis reflected on her father’s approach toward his work: “He probably was a journalist first…. He was more drawn and loyal to the story than he was to the anti-war movement…. I would bet that my father would be on the journalistic side and say that the story had to be told so that people could have a conversation about the validity of the war.”[60] Indeed, Davis’s stories in Vietnam focused on the individual bravery and sacrifice of black soldiers. Comparing the experience of these soldiers to his work as a civil rights activist, Davis saw the enhanced economic and social opportunities that blacks could gain from military service.
            Upon returning home, however, Davis quickly realized how little the living situation of black civilians in 1968 reflected the sacrifice that many black soldiers had made in Vietnam. The contrast between Davis’s visions of black social and economic uplift in Vietnam and the scenes of repression that he witnessed in the United States illustrated the relationship between race and the military at its worst. As America continued its descent into violence at home and abroad, this grim reality cast a pall over the civil rights victories of the previous decade.



Public Documents

Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee: Position Paper on Vietnam, 1966. Civil Rights Movement Veterans,


Davis, Michelle DeMond. Telephone Interview by author, May 4, 2011, Princeton, NJ.

Davis, Michelle DeMond. Telephone Interview by author, May 5, 2011, Princeton, NJ.

Contemporary Newspapers and Journals

Baltimore Afro-American, 1966-1969

Ebony, 1967

Jet, 1965



Carson, Clayborne, David J. Garrow, Gerlad Gill, Vincent Harding, and Darlene Clark Hine, ed., The Eyes on the Prinze Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, and Firsthand Accounts from the Black Freedom Struggle (New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Davis Michael D., and Hunter R. Clark. Thurgood Marshall: Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench. New York: Birch Lane Press, 1992.

Farrar, Hayward. The Baltimore Afro-American: 1892-1950. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Graham, Herman III. The Brother’s Vietnam War: Black Power, Manhood, and the Military Experience. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003.

Hall, Simon. Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements in the 1960s. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.

Jeffries, Hasan Kwame. Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

Raines, Howell. My Soul is Rested: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South. New York: Penguin Books, 1983.

Sugrue, Thomas J. Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North. New York: Random House, 2008.

Terry, Wallace. Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans. Random House: New York, 1984.

Washington, James Melvin, ed. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986.

Westheider, James. Fighting on Two Fronts: African Americans and the Vietnam War. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

Wyatt, Clarence. Paper Soldiers: The American Press and the Vietnam War. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993.


I would like to thank Michelle DeMond Davis for so generously sharing her time and her memories of her father with me.

[1] Hayward Farrar, The Baltimore Afro-American: 1892-1950 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998), xi-ii.
[2] Michelle DeMond Davis, Telephone interview by author, May 4, 2011, Princeton, NJ.
[3] Simon Hall, Peace and Freedom: The Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements in the 1960s (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), 10.
[4] James Westheider, Fighting on Two Fronts: African Americans and the Vietnam War (New York: New York University Press, 1997), 1.
[5] Wallace Terry, Bloods: An Oral History of the Vietnam War by Black Veterans (Random House: New York, 1984), xv.
[6] Hasan Kwame Jeffries, Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama’s Black Belt (New York: New York University Press, 2009), 106.
[7] Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Position Paper: On Vietnam,” 1966, at
[8] Jeffries, Bloody Lowndes, 117.
[9] Muhammad Ali with Richard Durham, “The Greatest,” in The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader, ed. Clayborne Carson et. al. (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), 445, 450.
[10] Hall, Peace and Freedom, 11.
[11] Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Time to Break Silence,” in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James Melvin Washington (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986), 232.
[12] Michelle DeMond Davis, Telephone interview by author, Princeton, NJ, April 4, 2011.
[13] Thomas J. Sugrue, Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (New York: Random House, 2008), 34.
[14] Michelle DeMond Davis, Telephone interview by author, Princeton, NJ, April 4, 2011.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Michael D. Davis and Hunter R. Clark, Thurgood Marshall: Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench (New York: Birch Lane Press, 1992), 209.
[17] Ibid., 210.
[18] Michelle DeMond Davis, Telephone interview by author, Princeton, NJ, May 4, 2011.
[19] Howell Raines, My Soul is Rested: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement in the Deep South (New York: Penguin Books, 1983), 84.
[20] Michelle DeMond Davis, Telephone interview by author, Princeton, NJ, May 5, 2011.
[21] “Editorials: Poverty War and Vietnam,” Baltimore Afro-American, Jan. 15, 1966.
[22] “Editorials: Our Patience Wears Thin,” Baltimore Afro-American, Feb. 12, 1966.
[23] Michelle DeMond Davis, Telephone interview by author, Princeton, NJ, May 5, 2011.
[24] Michael DeMond Davis, “On the Battlefields of Vietnam, ‘They couldn’t care less what color you are,” The Baltimore Afro-American, July 22, 1967.
[25] Michael DeMond Davis, “Major Brown Says: ‘Your decisions have to be right,” The Baltimore Afro-American, Aug. 5, 1967.
[26] Herman Graham III, The Brother’s Vietnam War: Black Power, Manhood, and the Military Experience (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003), 135.
[27] Michael DeMond Davis, “Wounded Veterans Describe Horror of Vietnam,” The Baltimore Afro- American, July 1, 1967.
[28] Graham, The Brothers’ Vietnam War, 136.
[29] Michael DeMond Davis, “In the Face of Death, They Laugh: Mud erases color in jungle Viet ‘front,’” The Baltimore Afro-American, Oct. 7, 1967.
[30] Davis, “On the Battlefield,” July 22, 1967.
[31] Davis, “In the Face of Death,” Oct. 7, 1967.
[32] Graham, The Brothers’ Vietnam War, 137.
[33] Davis, “On the Battlefield,” July 22, 1967.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Davis, “On the Battlefield,” July 22.
[36] Ibid.
[37] Carson, ed., Eyes on the Prize, 279-81
[38] Michael DeMond Davis, “Young talks of rights and peace,” Baltimore Afro-American, Sept. 16, 1967.
[39] Michael DeMond Davis, “Wait until these GIs come home,” Baltimore Afro-American, Aug. 12, 1967.
[40] Ibid.
[41] Davis, “In the Face of Death,” Oct. 7, 1967.
[42] Davis, “On the Battlefields of Vietnam,” July 22, 1967.
[43] Graham, The Brothers’ Vietnam War, 135.
[44] Simeon Booker, “Negro GI Heroes in the Vietnam War,” Jet, Aug. 19, 1965, 18.
[45] Simeon Booker, “Jet Newsman Views War from Copter,” Jet, Sept. 5, 1965, 47.
[46] Ragni Lantz, “Dixie Town Fetes War Hero,” Ebony, June 1967, 28.
[47] “Viet Nam: Every Youth Must the Fact of Involvement,” Ebony, August 1967, 25.
[48] Clarence Wyatt, Paper Soldiers: The American Press and the Vietnam War (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1993), 179.
[49] Ibid., 177.
[50] Michael DeMond Davis, “The Other War,” Baltimore Afro-American, Nov. 5, 1967. This article appeared in the Afro after Davis had returned to the United States.
[51] “Mike Davis tells forum Viet GIs expect rights,” Baltimore Afro-American, Feb. 3, 1968.
[52] Michael DeMond Davis, “3 Dead, 50 Shot on S.C. Campus,” Baltimore Afro-American, Feb. 10, 1967.
[53] Ibid.
[54] Michael DeMond Davis, “Memo From Vietnam: ‘I’m a lot safer over here than in the states,’” Baltimore Afro-American, Aug. 5, 1967.
[55] Farrar, Afro-American, 197.
[56] “A Letter From Vietnam,” The Baltimore Afro-American, Dec. 30, 1967.
[57] See “Tragedy of Vietnam,” May 25, 1968 and “Vietnam Drags On,” May 17, 1968, Baltimore Afro-American.
[58] Terry, Bloods, xvii.

[59] Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Position Paper: On Vietnam.”
[60] Michelle DeMond Davis, Telephone interview by author, Princeton, NJ, May 5, 2011.

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