Black Doughboys


“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

Frederick Douglass


National mobilization during World War I meant national mobilization and that included the black citizens of the United States.  In a time of virulent racism some 370,000 blacks were inducted into the Army, dwarfing the 180,000 blacks who served in the Union Army in World War I.  For the first time, over a thousand blacks earned commissions as officers.  Two hundred thousand black troops served in France during the War, most as laborers and stevedores, but many in combat units like the all black 92 and 93 Divisions.   German propaganda leaflets attempted to cause black troops to desert, pointing out, all too accurately, how badly blacks were treated in the United States and the Army.  The propaganda was ineffective, blacks usually fighting with distinction, despite the rampant race prejudice to which they were subjected.  White troops sometimes defended their black comrades from prejudice, especially on the home front.

The worst race riots in the nation’s history broke out in 1919.  The status quo of blacks in a permanent inferior status was beginning to break down, and black service in World War I gave a huge impetus to this process.

Published in: on July 13, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Black Doughboys  
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