Electronic Theses and Dissertations


There Is No Dishonor in Desertion: Army Racial Intolerance and African-American Soldiers' Desertion


Steve Wallace

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in History

First Advisor

Chiarella Esposito

Second Advisor

Charles K. Ross

Third Advisor

Joshua First


The thesis focuses on a study concerning the desertion of African-American soldiers from the United States Army. The data were collected from the period covering the War of Independence to the mid-1960s of the Cold War. The study proposes that there are limits to which these soldiers cannot bear the burden of combat and the simultaneous fight against institutionalized racism. Some men endured their circumstances in spite of pervasive intolerance, but others simply could not make sense of the inconsistencies of their government's requirement for them to fight yet deny them basic human rights. The men believed they had the right to full citizenship, as they fought and died in defense of America. The study demonstrates that the threat of punishment or the actual use of it is not an effective deterrent to desertion when the deserters' ultimate motivation for absconding their military obligation is liberty.

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