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The Harlem Hellfighters

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,361 Ratings  ·  274 Reviews
From bestselling author Max Brooks, the riveting story of the highly decorated, barrier-breaking, historic black regiment—the Harlem Hellfighters

In 1919, the 369th infantry regiment marched home triumphantly from World War I. They had spent more time in combat than any other American unit, never losing a foot of ground to the enemy, or a man to capture, and winning countle
Paperback, 257 pages
Published April 1st 2014 by Broadway Books
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Jun 11, 2014 Diane rated it really liked it
I love it when graphic novels are used to tell personal or historical stories -- it's true that they are not just for superheroes.*

Max Brooks said he has been fascinated by the African-American infantry regiment known as the Harlem Hellfighters since he first learned about them in 5th grade. The Hellfighters were honored for their service in World War I:

"We spent 191 days in combat. Longer than any American unit, white or black. In all that time we never lost a trench to the enemy ... or a man
Sep 14, 2014 Sesana rated it really liked it
As far as I can tell, this is a lightly fictionalized account of the Harlem Hellfighters, an all-black regiment that served in World War I. Though American, they served for and with a French army that treated them with significantly more humanity than that of their own country. It's a compelling story, that Brooks has made very readable. The racism that the regiment encounters can be very difficult to read, but it absolutely should be read. It's a shame that, despite their accomplishments, the m ...more
Apr 23, 2014 Matt rated it liked it
I'm afraid the ratings may be inflated on this book because of the subject matter. First of all I find WWI stories fascinating right off the bat. So I was ready to like this one alot before I even started. Second, I think there is a reluctance to give a bad rating to anything tackling the subject of racism. This book is not bad, but I think it will make a better movie than it did a graphic novel. The author has said the story started as a script he's been floating around Hollywood and adapted it ...more
Jul 28, 2014 Kaora rated it really liked it

They called it a war to end all wars.
But all it did was end the golden age of Europe.

A powerful story about Black Americans fighting for democracy in the first World War. Dubbed the Harlem Hellfighters, these soldiers were set up to fail, and yet succeeded in the face of so much adversity from their government, fellow solders and the people they fought for.

Max Brooks is a talented storyteller and drew me in from the first page. Stories involving racism really hit home with me, as my family wa
Mar 02, 2015 Steve rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
Historical fiction packaged as a graphic novel. An important story (the trials and successes of black American soldiers in WWI), introducing plenty of key figures in a sufficiently entertaining, effective, and poignant package.

Non-spoiler alert: This is not for the faint of heart - it's brutal (and, excuse the pun, graphic) stuff.

In addition to the history, it's worth it for the exquisite passage by Irvin Cobb, penned in the Saturday Evening Post in 1918: If ever proof were needed, which it is n
Ryan Dejonghe
Jul 18, 2014 Ryan Dejonghe rated it it was amazing
“In 1917 we left our home to make the world safe for democracy even though democracy wasn’t safe back home.” Despite 191 days in combat (longest for any unit, black or white, in World War I), despite being one of the most decorated units, and despite having the first American (black or white) be awarded the French Croix DeGuerre (Cross of War), the Harlem Hellfighters are still largely unrecognized in many historical accounts of World War I. Thanks to the writing of Max Brooks and the illustrati ...more
May 27, 2014 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics-manga, history
You’ve probably heard this story before: Coloured men who want to fight for their country, for their freedom, who are treated as less than garbage, but persevere to become the best of the best. We’ve seen this story told many times, in many different forms, from the Tuskegee Airmen, to the The United States Colored Troops. But that doesn’t mean the that the story of men who fought and died for the freedom of a country that hated them is any less important. I loved the choice of black and white a ...more
Apr 10, 2014 eddie rated it liked it
The facts of the story - one of the most decorated units of the war who were not given full respect by the US military leadership during the Jim Crow era - are highly compelling. The treatment by Brooks is good and the cameos by Eugene Bullard (who's currently being treated in comic form in the pages of the Washington Post comics section) and James Reese Europe ("The King of Jazz") are nice touches. White is an accomplished artist and the illustrations are strong. It may be a personal issue, but ...more
Sep 13, 2014 Gregory rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book and should be required reading in the schools. Despite the Racism that these men endured, these men have left a lasting mark on history and proven that there is indeed honor and courage. Thank you Mr. Brooks for telling this story.
 Charlie - A Reading Machine
Aug 01, 2014 Charlie - A Reading Machine rated it really liked it
This flew by like a good movie. I'd not read a graphic novel for a while and whilst I'd have loved some color on the pages the story and the art work were just outstanding. Hellfighters is the story of the only black American soldiers in WW1 who were such fierce victims of racism on their own shores that the only way they could answer the call they felt and fight for democracy was to fight along side the French. They tore it up, never losing a trench, never losing someone to capture. Dark, gritt ...more
Jo'hari Payne-bullock
Jan 29, 2015 Jo'hari Payne-bullock rated it it was amazing
This book was pure genius. I commend you Max Brook.
Carol Storm
May 27, 2014 Carol Storm rated it really liked it
As a work of black American history, it's a masterpiece, but as a work of graphic novel entertainment, it's just about average.

Max Brooks does an amazing job in putting together a story with global meaning and power out of the story of a single World War One regiment. He works in not only the whole history of blacks in America, but the history of Europe, and Africa, and the Great War. He gets in great quotes from W.E.B. DuBois and other important authors too.

Of course, there are drawbacks to t
Theophilus (Theo)
Sep 26, 2015 Theophilus (Theo) rated it it was amazing
Hard to believe there is still resistance by many prominent Americans to bring the true history of the United States of America to the world. Many choose to still wear blinders and sanitize events that took place (and are still occurring) to subjugate and repress a significant portion of its population, and to deny those people their part in American history and world events. Read the author's note. I'm not a big fan of graphic novels, but I am grateful to the author to use whatever vehicle was ...more
Jul 08, 2015 Jeimy rated it really liked it
While reading about Puerto Rican musicians in the Harlem Renaissance, I learned that my countrymen--granted US citizenship in 1917--fought with the Harlem Hellfighters and played with James Reese once the war ended. I remembered I had acquired this graphic novel in November of last year and searched for it in my library.

My first reaction was disgust at how gory it was. I thought, "What can you expect from a man who writes about zombies most of the time?" Little by little, the social injustices a
Apr 18, 2014 J.C. rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, other
Read an edition that was an Advanced Readers Copy, Uncorrected proof. The art was not colored in, it was only in black and white. It might have been more powerful with the color added. I might have to glance at a real edition of this some day.

UPDATE 4/18/2014:

The trade paperback edition arrived in the store today, I flipped through and noticed that all the art work is in black and white. I think this book would have been much more powerful in color.
John Wiswell
Feb 08, 2015 John Wiswell rated it liked it
This book is so worth reading and has such troubling flaws that I've struggled to review it. On the one hand it's a story very few Americans know of, about a black Regiment in the segregated U.S. military during World War I, so disciplined and fierce that they never retreated or even lost a trench, and who spent the most time in combat of all U.S. units. That people believe only white Americans served in WWI is shameful, and the best part of the book is Brooks's Afterword, explaining his fondnes ...more
Josephus FromPlacitas
Sep 22, 2015 Josephus FromPlacitas rated it it was amazing
Holy moly did I ever sleep on this. I had it out from the library for a million years, and only got to it when it was no longer re-check-outable. Every time I picked it up, the cover drove me off. "Written by the author of a trendy zombie book? Eh, I'm not that big on the current zombiemania. And the cover drawing has that pointy-yet-flat look that reminds me too much of Rob Liefeld/90s muscle comics? A bunch of weird-faced shouting soldiers bursting hyperkinetically out of an overstuffed centra ...more
May 11, 2015 Margot rated it liked it
I really wish this was better! The subject matter (African-American troops in WWI) is interesting, important and under-explored in our popular culture that is obsessed with war. The storyline is a bit rough to follow, and the artwork further confuses the plot and character development. I suppose if the production quality was increased to add full-color illustrations that might have improved things, but perhaps not. I've read plenty of black-and-white comics that don't have trouble communicating ...more
May 27, 2014 Mark rated it it was ok
A big letdown. I already knew something about WW1, and perhaps that's where the book & I parted ways. Right at the beginning. Although I didn't know the story of America's all-black 369th Infantry Regiment, the graphic novel form didn't do it justice. Though there are the compelling parts of the story--how America disdained these men that the French appreciated & Germans respected--they constantly have to make room for "trench warfare 101," describing the horrific life on the Western Fro ...more
Jean-christophe Boudreau
May 21, 2014 Jean-christophe Boudreau rated it it was amazing
Harlem Hellfighters is about an all black infantry regiment who fought during world war one and became one of the most distinguished regiments of that war. I thoroughly enjoyed this non-fiction graphic novel that covered the members enlisting all the way to the trenches in Europe. The art work was all black and white which I personal think worked in favor of it. I would recommend this graphic novel to anyone who enjoys non-fiction that is based on true events.
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Apr 24, 2016 Laura Hoffman Brauman rated it really liked it
Fictionalized account of the Harlem Hellfighters and their heroic actions in WWI. I can't say that the illustrations were beautiful -- it was WWI and there was nothing beautiful about that -- but they were stunning and evocative and worked perfectly with the text. Looking forward to watching the History Channel episode I found about the Hellfighters to get more info.
An extremely well done story about World War I and its unsung heroes. With it being a graphic novel, it is certainly accessible and I will definitely be encouraging some of my students to read it this year.
Aug 26, 2015 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This book is an absolutely amazing and enlightening work of historical fiction. The only complaint that I have is that is difficult to tell what's going on in some of the panels.
May 30, 2015 Christophe rated it really liked it
4 stars because I'm not a huge fan of the drawings, though this story is a must read.
Elizabeth Zdrodowski
Jan 04, 2015 Elizabeth Zdrodowski rated it really liked it
"The Harlem Hellfighters" is a really important story that needs to be told. I know I never learned about these heroes in high school, college, or graduate school. I'm sure many are also in the dark. I'm not a graphic novel person so I cannot pretend to be an expert but the illustrations seemed fitting and powerful. I also liked the author's infusion of music lyrics and prose. Important book that I will surely be adding to GCHS's collection.
Curricular Tie: Social Studies and Language Arts

How it can be used to enhance instruction: I would use Harlem Hellfighters during a unit on World War I. After students have learned the basic who, what, where, when, and why; I would have students investigate alternate points of view and individuals and groups not normally taught in history books. I would build a collection of books from multiple points of view for students to read to enhance their understanding of the complexities of war and to i
Colin Chamberlin
Jun 09, 2015 Colin Chamberlin rated it really liked it
This book was bought for me by my mother and I read it while I was recently in the hospital. While it is a bit light on the reading side, I did thoroughly enjoy it and would recommend it to my friends and really anyone else who likes world war history.

Do not be mistaken, this is a fictionalized account of the struggles of the American 369th Infantry Regiment in World War. However, it is a good read all the same. It mainly stars, the narrator Mark, and his commander as the face down the racial di
Liz B
Mar 15, 2015 Liz B rated it really liked it
I've been looking forward to reading this because of how much I liked World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, and I was intrigued by the fact that Brooks was writing a graphic novel.

I found it both mesmerizing and hard to follow. I will admit right up front that I always find it much harder to follow graphic novels than regular books. But there were a lot of characters, and Brooks spends only the barest amount of time hinting at character and background before they are all in uniform. At
Feb 15, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
Reading Max Brooks's The Harlem Hellfighters, it's impossible not to make a comparison with Band of Brothers. Though set during different wars, both tales address the horrors of combat, and the gut-wrenching, occasionally uplifting moments that soldiers face. While Easy Company were stand-ins for Everyman G.Is., however, the Hellfighters dramatize the specific challenges African Americans endured just so that they could serve their country in battle. As a historical lesson, it's a powerful one, ...more
Jan 25, 2015 J rated it it was amazing
Five stars. That's right. Five. I have given less stars to my favourite author and some of my favourite books, but I cannot in good conscience give anything less than five stars to this nearly perfect graphic novel by Max Brooks. It was spectacular and is echoing through me even as I type about it with shaky hands.

Brooks fictionalizes the amazing true story of the 369th infantry regiment from World War I and lays it out in front of you in all of it's long overdue glory. This was an all Black pla
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Max Brooks is The New York Times bestselling author of The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. He has been called ”the Studs Terkel of zombie journalism.“

Brooks is the son of director Mel Brooks and the late actress Anne Bancroft. He is a 1994 graduate of Pitzer College. His wife, Michelle, is a screenwriter, and the couple have a son, Henry.
More about Max Brooks...

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“They used to call it the 'Great War'. But I'll be damned if I could tell you what was so 'great' about it. They also called it 'the war to end all wars'...'cause they figured it was so big and awful that the world'd just have to come to its senses and make damn sure we never fought another one ever again.
That woulda been a helluva nice story.
But the truth's got an ugly way of killin' nice stories.”
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