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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Renowned professor to deliver WWII lecture

Professor Mary Louise Roberts of the University of Wisconsin-Madison will deliver a lecture at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 18, in Room 111 of Stabler Hall. She will explore the role of France and America in the death of 21 African American soldiers during World War II .

Professor Mary Louise RobertsThe lecture, “Rape Hysteria and the Sexual Economy of Race: French Accusations of Sexual Assault Against African-American G.I.s, 1944-1946,” is free and open to the public.

The UALR Department of History’s Mabel W. Formica and Santo D. Formica History Endowment Speaker Series will present Roberts’ lecture. She will explore how “the French and the Americans became deadly allies in racism, sending innocent men to their death.”

According to U.S. Army statistics, 152 rapes had been committed by American soldiers in France in 1944, of which 139 were allegedly perpetrated by African American soldiers.

As a result, 21 public hangings were carried out in France in 1944-45, almost all of them African-American soldiers.

Professor Roberts’ research attempts to answer the questions: why were so many rape charges aimed at African American soldiers? And why were so many more black soldiers than whites executed for the crime of rape?

Roberts is a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Research and the Humanities. Her new book, “Foreign Affairs: Sex, Power and American G.I.s in France, 1944-1946,” is slated for publication in May by the University of Chicago Press.

Her research was funded by a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a membership at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Social Science Research Council.

Her first book, “Civilization without Sexes,” won the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize given by the American Historical Association for the Best Book in Women’s History in 1994. Roberts has received six teaching awards, including the university-wide Walter J. Gore Award at Stanford University in 1999.