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DuSable Museum Opens New Exhibit About Illinois Fighting Eighth

6/6/2018, noon | Updated on 6/6/2018, noon
The DuSable Museum of African American History recently opened a new exhibit, Clearing a Path For Democracy: Citizen Soldiers of ...
The exhibit, Clearing a Path For Democracy: Citizen Soldiers of the Fighting Eighth in World War I, tells the story of the 8th Infantry Illinois National Guard (the Fighting Eighth) from 1895 to 1941. Photo: Katherine Newman

DuSable Museum Opens New Exhibit About Illinois Fighting Eighth

BY: KATHERINE NEWMAN

The DuSable Museum of African American History recently opened a new exhibit, Clearing a Path For Democracy: Citizen Soldiers of the Fighting Eighth in World War I. The exhibit tells the story of the 8th Infantry Illinois National Guard (the Fighting Eighth) from 1895 to 1941.

“This exhibit is such a special delivery package for all of you and all of us. This story tonight of the Fighting Eighth has been a long time in the making and a long time in the telling. It’s a story that most of us have no idea about,” said Perry Irmer, president and CEO of the DuSable Museum of African American History.

This exhibition tells the story of the Fighting Eighth in two parts. The first part focuses on the accomplishment of the regiment before being deployed to Europe during World War I and the Chicagoan who led the regiment. The second part of the exhibit shows the notable battle record of the regiment on the Western Front and the legacy of the Fighting Eighth.

The DuSable Museum invited Captain Hari Jones, former marine and curator of the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, D.C., to come to the museum as the guest curator for this new exhibit.

“At the DuSable Museum, we have a very strong archive collection and a very strong artifact collection and Dr. Jones has done an amazing job of marrying these materials and providing this story for you. This journey that we’ve been on has been ongoing for a couple of years and we are all very proud to see the opening of these wonderful materials,” said Skyla Hearn, archivist and Special Collections librarian at the DuSable Museum of African American History.

The majority of the items that are on display in the exhibit came from the DuSable Museum’s own collection. The Museum was lucky to have records donated to them by an official military archivist, also known as an adjutant, that were used to support the themes of the new Exhibit.

“We had more, and richer, documentation in our archives here at the DuSable than they even had in Washington D.C. so we are very proud of that,” said Irmer.

The exhibit opening was also supported by the Consulate General of France in Chicago.

“The exhibit that we are about to open is the key to our historical ties. It is another outstanding example of our strong collaboration which we are proud of. Clearing the Path for Democracy: Citizen Soldiers of the Fighting Eighth in World War I pays tribute to the Chicago colored fighters who fought along with French soldiers during the great war. These men all shared the common goals of peace, freedom, and democracy,” said Frédéric Cholé, deputy consul general of the Consulate General of France in Chicago.