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World War One - African-Americans

               African-Americans Film Clips

WW1 African American Helmet Insignia

American Negros in the Great War (Leslie's Weekly, 1920)

This is a World War I article listing many of the patriotic commitments that the African-American community devoted to the 1917 - 1918 war efforts:

"The war has transformed the American Negro into the Negro American. Because he has been doing big things for his country his sense of national unity grown; his citizenship became a living reality."

"They have contributed 300,000 of their young men to the American Army. Of these 1,000 are commissioned officers of the line...One entire regiment was decorated for bravery and several individual soldiers have been cited for deeds of great valor."

 

A French Village Welcomes the Men of the Ninety-Second Division (The Crises, 1919)

This is a lovely piece, originally written in French for a village paper, in which a journalist describes the collective excitement of the townsfolk in welcoming the Americans to their sleepy hamlet during the First World War, and how astonished they were to find that the arriving Doughboys were all of African descent!

Read an Article About American intervention in W.W. I and the Gratitude of France.

*Watch a Film Clip About the Harlem Hell Fighters*

 

W.E.B. Du Boise and the Documents of U.S. Army Prejudice (The Crises, 1919)

The historic article attached herein first appeared in a 1919 issue of THE CRISES and served to document the official discrimination against African-Americans who served both in the ranks and as officers in the American Army during the First World War. The article includes the communications from high-ranking American officers to the French military authorities, conveying their suggestions as to how America's black Doughboys were to be treated. Other letters from American Army officers (and one U.S. Senator) are also included:

"We must prevent the rise of any pronounced degree of intimacy between French Officers...(they) must not eat with them, must not shake hands or seek to talk or meet with them outside of the requirements of military service."

To their credit, these dictates were entirely ignored by the French officer corps.

••Amazing Clear Film Footage of Black Enlistees in Training••

 

The Lynching of African-Americans in France (New York Times, 1921)

This disturbing article from 1921 reported on a series of lynchings that took place between the years 1917 through 1919 by U.S. Army personnel serving in France during the First World War. The journalist quoted witness after witness who appeared before the Senate Committee regarding the lynchings they had seen:

"Altogether...I saw ten Negroes and two white men hanged at Is-Sur-Tille. Twenty-eight other members of my command also witnessed these hangings and if necessary, I can produce them."

Read about racism in the U.S. Army of W.W. I

 

Soldier Man Blues (Literary Digest, 1927)

This article is essentially a collection of lyrics from an assortment of songs sung by the Black Doughboys who were charged with the task of loading and unloading trucks far behind the front line trenches. It was written in 1927 to serve as a review for Singing Soldiers by John J. Niles, who compiled the labor songs while stationed in France as a fighter pilot:

"All dese colored soldiers comin' over to France

All dese soldiers an' me

Goin' to help de Whites make de Kaiser dance

All dese soldiers an' me..."


To learn how many African_Americans served in the W.W. I American Army, click here.

••Watch a Quick Documentary About the African-Americans Who Fought in the First World War••

 

African-American Stevedores in the U.S. Army (The Independent, 1919)

An article written by David Le Roy Ferguson (dates unknown), an African-American pastor assigned to minister to the black Doughboys posted to the depot at St. Nazaire, France. The men of his flock were stevedores who were ordered to perform the thankless task of off-loading cargo from the various supply ships arriving daily to support the A.E.F.. Aside from working as cooks or in other service positions, this was a customary assignment given to the African-Americans during the war; only a small percentage were posted to the 92nd and 93rd combat divisions.

Pastor Ferguson's magazine article salutes the necessary labor of these men while at the same time adhering to the usual simple descriptions of the African-American as cheerful, musical and rather crude.

 


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