“Our First Great Tragedy of the Great War” Analysis- Kyle Mann

“Our First Great Tragedy of the Great War” considers the ignorance of African Americans in regards to WWI a tragedy and their dedication to the war (despite their lack of awareness) is admirable. The piece is progressive for its time but not  surprising considering the audience. Watson remarks “All honor to these black men” when describing their contributions to WWi. However, the underlying tone is condescending still. It generalizes African Americans as “ignorant” and having “not the slightest idea what it was all about.” However, this is more a product of the time it was authored rather than an intentional attack on African Americans. It appears both The New Freewoman and The Crisis both try to inspire their readers using rhetoric. However, I feel that The Crisis is much more focused and consistent. It conveys a generally positive message about the progression of African Americans centering around duty and service. In contrast, The New Freewoman focused on individualism and equality with no consistent themes across its articles with varying tones.

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2 thoughts on ““Our First Great Tragedy of the Great War” Analysis- Kyle Mann

  1. I definitely agree with your analysis of this article. It is almost a bit painful to read as the author makes seemingly intentionally rude comments about the African Americans. I think you are right, however, to remember that it is a product of its time. Even when the reader can tell he is trying to be kind, he falls short. For example, “These men have left at home sisters and mothers and fathers and wives and little ones who are still dazed, because they do not yet know what it is about.” He is trying to give them honor when saying that they up and left their families and loved ones, but almost ruins the sentence by saying how ignorant of the war they are. Out of curiosity, when you say that both this journal and The New Freewoman “try to inspire their readers using rhetoric”, what do you think this author is trying to inspire in the reader? What do you think the author is really trying to get at when he contradicts himself about the ignorance and the honorable actions of the African Americans? Great analysis! It really helped me piece through this article more than if I had not read your commentary.

  2. I’m not sure I entirely agree with your analysis on the condescending nature of the article, because I don’t believe that was the author’s intent. The diction and phrasing used were, as Kyle said, an unfortunate product of the times, but the tone itself, which both of you agree seems rude and underhanded, I respectfully believe is turned around by the title of the article itself, “Our First Great Tragedy of the War.” The tragedy itself is the fact that these African Americans are so ignorant of the world around them, BECAUSE they have been “so long neglected, repressed and exploited,” and then are thrown into the war. So I believe the author, rather than insulting this group, is instead mourning the ignorance they were forced into, and then honoring the fact that they were fighting so well for a country that had done so little for them.

    I do agree with both of your analysis of the similarities and differences of “The Crisis” and “The New Freewoman,” you both made excellent points.

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