New DuSable exhibit highlights African American soldiers

By TONIA HILL
Staff Writer

One portion of a two-part exhibition that honors African American soldiers that fought during World War I will open on Saturday, Nov. 11 at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl.

The exhibit “Clearing a Path for Democracy: Citizen Soldiers of the Eighth Illinois National Guard,” was curated by historian and guest curator Harold (Hari) Jones. It was created to tell the story of an African American regiment that was deployed in two foreign wars.

“The story of the 8th Infantry Illinois National Guard reveals the political sophistication of Chicago’s African American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The community stood as a sterling example of what could be done despite racial discrimination,” Jones said in a written statement, “In a two-part exhibition, this story will be told, and this story is certain to challenge false images of Americans of African descent too often projected in the nation’s popular culture.”

The group was designated the 370th United States Infantry during World War I and was awarded more citations than any other American regiment that fought within Europe’s Western front.

“Citizen soldiers have served their nation, their states, and their communities throughout American history. National Guardsmen are the quintessential citizen soldiers, and the men of the 8th Infantry Illinois National Guard demonstrated the best qualities of this segment of American society,” said DuSable in a written statement.

The first in the two-part exhibition series focuses on Chicago residents who were a part of the regiment and its accomplishments before deploying to Europe in World War I.

The second portion, which will open in April 2018 centers on the battle record of the regiment on the western front and the legacy of its soldiers and officers.

Artifacts included in the exhibition consist of a 1917 Combat Helmet; a 1917 enlisted uniform; an M1903 Rifle; a Mexican Border Service Medal, in addition to photographs, maps and a timeline video.

Jones is a writer, lecturer, historian, curator and motivational speaker. He served as assistant director and curator at the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum in Washington, D.C. for 12 years. Currently, he works as an independent history consultant.

Jones curated the permanent exhibit at the African American Civil War Museum entitled “The Glorious March to Liberty.”

Also, he has over the span of his career worked on exhibitions across the country. He was a content developer for the National Park Service museum at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Tuskegee, Ala., a content adviser for the American Civil War Center exhibit “Take Our Stand” and a content adviser for the National Archives and Records Administration exhibit “Discovering the Civil War.”

The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

To find out more information about entry fees visit dusablemuseum.org or call 773-947-0600.

t.hill@hpherald.com