Set against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance, The Color Line uncovers the long buried story of The Harlem Hellfighters, one of the many African-American units that served in the First World War. By focusing on the personal journey of Serval Rivard, from his wedding day to his hellish experience in the trenches of the Western Front and home again, the story reveals not only the Hellfighters’ history, but that of two families and their place in Harlem’s most glorious era.
It is 1918, and Serval Rivard is marching off to war. He isn’t after glory, just respect—despite the humiliating prospect of menial labor in a segregated army. But mounting casualties on the Western Front and a twist of fate result in his reassignment to French command. It is in France that Rivard and his fellow soldiers forever distinguish themselves as “The Harlem Hellfighters.”
After surviving the horrors of No Man’s Land, Rivard returns to his bride and a community on the rise—the literary brilliance of W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes, the pride of Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa Movement, and the glamour of the Cotton Club. But as heartbreaking reports pour into Harlem of black soldiers lynched in the uniforms of their country, it becomes clear that despite the community’s progress and the military accomplishments of the Hellfighters, America’s racial divide remains immutably in place. For Rivard and his family, the Great War has ended, but a new war has begun—the war of the American Color Line.
— Warren Burdine, The Man Who Invented Rock-n-Roll“I dare you to walk away from this book uninspired. Readers of all races will learn volumes from this far-reaching new book for our times.”
— Hycell B. Taylor, The African-American Revolt of the Spirit“A brilliant storyteller and historian whose characters will live with you long after you finish reading the book.”
— Carolyn Butts, Editor, African Voices Magazine
“An American storyteller of the first rank! Walker Smith is a writer who understands the complexity of the human soul. Here is a writer who is not afraid to delve into the dark, even brutal side of humanity. And yet, this is not a novel of despair, but of hope, deeply rich in compassion and humor. Smith’s characters are bold, audacious, frightened and flawed, as only a first-rate storyteller can create. If you care at all about the history of race relations in this country, if you care at all about the ongoing struggle for human dignity, or if you just have a passion for good storytelling — Read This Book!”
“One of the best books I’ve ever read. I didn’t know what to expect because I had never visited the Harlem Renaissance in my reading. The writing was exceptional, but the story itself was riveting. I won’t do a synopsis of the book. Each reader should draw on their own emotions to get the true meaning of what The Color Line is all about. I will share with you the effect the story had on me. I was drawn to the main character, Serval Rivard, immediately. He was intelligent, determined and very outspoken, searching for respect in America in the early 1900’s. I was born in the 1960’s and didn’t experience the full effect of Jim Crow laws directly, that I can remember, but I’m sure my parents did. I read articles, books and watched documentaries on the progression of African Americans in search of their place in America, but nothing was quite as compelling as the struggles I’d read about in The Color Line. I felt everything Serval endured and it was a jolting experience. I felt like I was there every step of the way. I was happy at times, mad at others, but my biggest emotion was fear. I felt Serval’s disappointments and fears. I became emotional and I shed many tears trying to come to terms with the realistic account of Serval’s life. Reading safe books, i.e., romance and happy ending novels are what usually appeal to me. Reading The Color Line opened my eyes to a reality that I’d hidden from all of my life. Not only is The Color Line one of the best books I’ve ever read, it was a great history lesson. Bravo to the author!”
“A true page-turner! I tell everyone I encounter they should read this book! Walker Smith’s grasp on the characters and history warranted to tell this story is astounding. I still see the characters as if they are old friends and know you’ll do the same. A must read!!!”
“Smith’s characters are formed in the first few chapters then expertly woven into a storyline which encompasses the inhumanity of man in war and in peace as well as the determination of a few dreamers who must decide how high is the price of integrity. I didn’t put it down ‘till I was done. Thank God for weekends! An enjoyable read (that last line was for my mother who loathes the use of the word “read” as a noun. I just sent her this book. Happy Mother’s Day Mom!)”
“This was an excellent book. I could not wait to get home from work to finish reading it every day. I usually only read true stories because no one can create a character that is so believable and real. Not until now, anyway. These characters were so real, that I felt like I was living back in their time. I felt like I had a personal relationship with each of them. Now that I finished the book, I’m bored with my life again!!! Does this author have any more books that I can order? What I want to know is why doesn’t the whole world know about Walker Smith?”