Weaver now traces the intertwined lives of Ohio's Senator Joseph B. Foraker, who risked his political career in an eloquent defense of the soldiers, who "asked no favors because they are Negroes but only for justice because they are men"; of Dorsie Willis, the Mississippi sharecropper's son who emerged from obscurity as the black battalion's last survivor; and of the New York aristocrat who linked the fates of those two men—the flamboyant and popular Theodore Roosevelt. Weaver's narrative explores these tangled lives against the background of "the color line," which W. E. B. Du Bois defined in 1903 as "the problem of the twentieth century."
The Senator and the Sharecropper's Son gives a powerful human dimension to the facts of history. The senator committed political suicide by championing the men caught up in this "Black Dreyfus Affair" and Dorsie Willis, who spent fifty-nine years shining shoes in a downtown Minneapolis barbershop, told a reporter, "That dishonorable discharge kept me from improving my station. Only God knows what it done to the others."
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Published by Texas A&M University Press