African americans in world war I

Powerful Essays
Anthony J. Mitchell Summer 2002
U.S. Since 1865 History 2063


Before WORLD WAR I, military service represented a source of black pride. Black educators, clergymen, and the press frequently referred to Negro heroes of America’s past wars. After the Civil War, the U.S, Army maintained four regular Negro regiments –the 9th and 10th Calvary and the 24th and 25th Infantry. These units included veterans of the civil war and the frontier Indian fighting regiments. Retired sergeants often became respected, conservative leaders in their communities. This history set a foundation for black support and involvement in America’s future wars.
In 1917, the United States entered World War I under the slogan “Make the World Safe For Democracy.” Within a week after the U.S, entered the war, the War Department stopped accepting black volunteers because colored army quotas were filled. No black men were allowed in the Marines, Coast guard or Airforce. However they were allowed in the Navy only an as mess man which was a position the yielded very little advancement and no glory. When drafting began, of the more than 2,000,000 blacks registered 31 percent were accepted to 26 percent of the white men. Blacks then comprised 10 percent of the population. World War I represented a turning point in black American history. It, presented an opportunity to improve race relations at home despite the fighting abroad. How could you be racist against people whom are fighting to stabilize your freedom and the freedom of others was the mentality in the minds of black soldiers.

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Although World War I represented a turning point in American history it was evident racial relations would be and issue at home and abroad.
When American troops began arriving on the western front one of the first to arrive on New Years Day in 1918 was the 369th (Harlem Hell Fighters). This unit was the first to reach the Rhine in 1918 where the regiment received 11 unit citations from the French. The 369th regimental band conducted by James Reese Europe and Noble Sissle is credited with the introduction of American Jazz into Europe. (Reid. A life in Ragtime: A Biography of James Reese Europe. . Little, Arthur W. From Harlem to the Rhine: The story of New York’s Colored Volunteers). This regimental band entertained troops and citizens in every city they visited and wa...

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...n their efforts to make America truly democratic by ensuring full citizenship for its entire people. Black soldiers, who continued to serve in segregated units, were involved in protest against racial injustice on the home front and abroad. The introduction of black troops left a profound effect on Europe. More than

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350,000 African Americans served in segregated units during World War I, mostly as support troops. Several units saw action alongside French soldiers fighting against the Germans, and 171 African Americans were awarded the French Croix de Guerre or Legion of Honor for their heroic actions.
In response to the mistreatment and discrimination from the black community, several hundred African American men received officers` training at Des Moines Iowa. By October 1917, over six hundred African Americans were commissioned as captains and first and second lieutenants. These accomplishments allowed the black American male to put his stake in
American History not as a mere nuisance, or an inferior being portrayed by racism but as an Honorable soldier whom endeavors to protect a country he loves despite discrimination received at home or abroad.
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