Last of the Conquerors

Last of the Conquerors is the 1948 debut novel by African-American journalist and editor William Gardner Smith.[1][2]

First edition (publ. Farrar, Straus)

The novel concerns the author's experience as an African-American GI serving in the racially segregated United States Army in US-occupied Germany after World War II.[1] The protagonist, Hayes Dawkins, has an affair with Ilse, a white German woman. He and Ilse struggle against racist Army officers and policies to sustain a relationship that some white soldiers condemn (although there are also many friendly whites who help them).

Last of the Conquerors depicts post-Nazi Germany as more racially tolerant than the United States. While this depiction may or may not be accurate, Smith's novel is offering a critique of Marshall Plan rhetoric claiming that American society should be a model for the world, while African-Americans continued to suffer under the Jim Crow system at home and in the military (an inconsistency noticed by many other writers, American and German, at the time).


  1. ^ a b Weik von Mossner, Alexa. "Last of the Conquerors". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 19 August 2009 accessed 20 September 2015.
  2. ^ Campbell, James (2006-01-07). "The story behind Richard Wright's last novel". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-10-12.