...Negro Loyalty and Morale
Eager Response of Colored Draftees---Notable Tributes to the Patriotism of the Negro Race by the White Press---Also by President Wilson, Secretary Baker, Secretary Daniels, and Others---Negro Loyalty Never Doubted---Patriotic Negro Demonstrations and Other Instances of Loyalty
When the United States declared war against Germany and the Teutonic allies, there were internal conditions existing in America that were by no means ideal so far as the Negro was concerned, nor were they altogether conducive to loyalty and a healthy morale among this particular group of American citizens. Beset by a vicious and persistent propaganda on the one side, and by continued instances of lynching and mob violence of which he was the chief victim on the other, the Negro in America faced a real crisis at the beginning of the war. Temptation after temptation was presented to him to render lukewarm and half-hearted support to the Government in the prosecution of the war, without making himself criminally liable, but Negro leaders in all parts of the country recognized at once that the national crisis demanded, and the plain duty and best interests of the Negro racial group required that, without bargaining, there must be a pledge on the part of the Negro of his undiluted and unfaltering loyalty.
History records no parallel where, under similar conditions, any racial group has been more loyal to the Government or has maintained a higher morale than was true of colored Americans during the trying period of the recent war. The Negro pledged his loyalty and was depended upon in all sections of our country. He entered fully and bravely into the work of defending the "Stars and Stripes." All propaganda efforts to weaken his morale absolutely failed. A black skin during the war was a badge of patriotism.
The Negro was not unmindful of certain wrongs, injustices, and discriminations
which were heaped upon his race in many sections of the country, but in
the face of it all he remained ada-
Eager Response to the Draft
If there was ever any question as to the Negro's loyalty, it was soon
dispelled by the readiness with which lie answered the draft call, by his
eagerness to volunteer, even though in many instances denied this privilege;
by the splendid spirit in which thousands of Negroes, educated and uneducated,
accepted tasks assigned to them in non-combatant and Service of Supply regiments;
and by the whole-hearted way in which Negro civilians, men, women, and children,
representing every section of the country and every walk of life, responded
to every call of the Nation. The valiant, varied, and effective services
Many agencies sought to lower the morale of the Negro. Not only did German propagandists labor diligently in certain sections of the country, particularly among the unlettered element of the Negro population, in the effort to impress upon their minds the two fallacies that (1) America had no right or cause to engage in a foreign war, and (2) that the Negro was foolish in fighting for a country which did not fully protect him in his rights as a citizen. Propagandists sought to advertise every instance of lynching, mob violence, or other wrong visited upon a member of the Negro race, with a view of turning him against his own country, and found additional fuel for their seditious flames in the anti-Negro attitude manifested by a number of white newspapers, governors of states, mayors of cities, legislators, race-prejudice-breeding moving picture shows, etc., that were allowed to propagate a dangerous hate doctrine and to exert a disquieting influence even in the critical period of war.
Propagandists emphasized racial discriminations of one kind or another and unfortunately were able to refer to the facts that the black American, supposedly a citizen, was in many states denied the ballot; that he was "Jim Crowed" on many of the railroads and public carriers, although charged first-class fare for transportation; that he was denied admission to most public places of amusement, hotels and the like. Using such arguments as a basis, the question was raised as to why the Negro was willing to jeopardize his life, his liberty, and his pursuit of happiness in coming to the rescue of America in her extremity and thus helping to defeat Germany, a country where, it was said, such racial discriminations did not exist.
None of these questions, however, disturbed the thoughtful leaders of
the Negro people. They knew the designing motive back of such propaganda.
They recognized, without question, that the moment the American Negro failed
to perform all of the duties of citizenship, he immediately abdicated the
right of claiming the full privileges of citizenship. The Negro leaders
knew that the
Promoting the Negro Morale
As a part of the Government's program of promoting a, healthy morale among colored soldiers and colored Americans generally, the author was delegated by the Secretary of War to visit various camps and cantonments where colored soldiers were stationed, also leading centers of Negro population; first, for the purpose of learning as to conditions existing likely to affect their patriotism; and, second, for the purpose of delivering addresses such as would be calculated to promote the continued loyalty and a healthy morale among the members of this racial group.
Preliminary to his tour of the Middle-West he made a careful investigation of conditions existing in Camps Meade, Dix, Lee, Upton, and others, and had sought to ameliorate conditions existing among colored soldiers stationed at those camps. This middle-western itinerary served to give the colored people full opportunity of hearing directly from a representative of the War Department with respect to its policy concerning Negro troops.
The 92nd Division (colored) was trained at seven different cantonments.
Early in May, 1918, it became evident that orders would shortly be issued
for the entire division to go overseas, and it was therefore arranged that
the author should "swing around the
His return to Washington about the middle of May brought the itinerary to a close. Though the gait at which he traveled was a strenuous one, he was immeasurably strengthened for his work by this intimate contact with the people of the country of both races, soldiers and civilians. Wise counsel and friendly encouragement were met with at every turn and he was convinced that the extended tour had not been made in vain. He had spoken thirty-two times, to thousands of his fellow-citizens, all of whom were impelled by a common impulse of patriotism.
A high note of patriotism was sounded by thoughtful leaders of the Negro people in all walks of life. Negro editors, with but few exceptions, rallied to the Nation's call and wrote in a martial spirit; the Negro clergy put on the whole armor of patriotism and awakened the Negro laity to a sense of its duty, opportunity, and responsibility
Negro educators in all sections taught loyalty as a cardinal virtue and representative Negro public speakers sought diligently to maintain a healthy morale among the rank and file of colored Americans.
It was also recognized on the part of the white people of the South and elsewhere that the Negro's loyalty was not to be questioned, and representative white Americans, both North and South, testified in the public press that they regarded the Negro's undivided loyalty as a valuable asset to the Nation. White newspapers all over the country devoted column after column of space to the whole-souled loyalty of colored Americans.
Illustrations in Chapter XXIX
Notable Newspaper Tribute
"The Negro population of the United States," said the St. Louis
Globe Democrat, "is loyal to the core, and of all the fantasies
"It has been possible for Prussianism to find among us some weak and credulous people and some even who, coming here as aliens, have prospered greatly under our institutions, to be deluded with the notion that they could reap advantage out of the nation's humiliation and defeat. The colored citizen of the United States has a shrewd understanding of the fact that we must all stand or fall together, and he doesn't want to fall.
"Aside from all -such practical considerations," continued the editor, "there is a Negro loyalty which is one of the finest traits of the race. It has been sung in song and story. The older generations were loyal even to those who were fighting to hold them in slavery, out of ties of love and affection which nothing could break. Men of the South, intelligent and high-charactered men, some of whom had personal and family knowledge of this fine fidelity and devotion, have permitted grosser elements to persecute the race, purely out of political considerations. We trust, and now believe, that that discreditable era is drawing to a close. It has been the one blot on an escutcheon never marred by want of valor or chivalry in fighting for a lost cause.
"The colored people are justifying all of our faith. Not only are they, at home, responding to every patriotic need, but their men in the field, in France, are proving themselves worthy comrades of those who so signally earned laurels at San Juan, and those who, on the Mexican border, under Pershing, proved themselves at Carrizal to be of the stuff American soldiers are made of."
In Jackson, Mississippi, in the heart of the South, Rev. George Luther
Cady, pastor of the First Congregational Church, preached a special sermon
pleading for a deeper consideration of the black man and a fairer judgment
of him in view of his demonstrated patriotism and dependability, especially
in time of war. He emphasized the fact that the crimes with which the Negro
is charged are few in number and in proportion to those of the white population,
and that, through the narrow viewpoint of the whites, his
Mr. Bolton Smith, a representative white Southern gentleman of Memphis, Tennessee, impressed by Negro, loyalty and possessed with a high sense of justice, wrote Governor Tom C. Rye, of Tennessee, as follows: "The Government of the United States is controlled by Southern men. It has called the Negro to the defense of the colors, and the American people will demand that a race thus honored shall be granted the justice of a fair trial when accused of crime. We all know that when guilty there is no doubt of full punishment. As Secretary of the Tennessee Law and Order League, organized to stop lynching, I urge you to issue a proclamation to our people pointing out. the treasonable effect of such lynchings."
A white newspaper of Texas published an article that was reprinted in the Houston Observer and other Negro journals, headed "The Black Man Stood Pat and Fought the Good Fight." In the course of the article it was stated:
"The war did more for the American Negro than had been accomplished in several decades of peace. He demonstrated that he could fight---that his willingness and capacity for work were unlimited; that he could easily adapt himself to strange surroundings, and that he understood the purpose of Liberty Bonds, which he almost invariably bought--- until it actually and positively 'hurt.' One of the most glorious things that happened to the Negro, however, was the revelation of his absolute, unshakable loyalty to the Stars and Stripes. Evidence adduced before a Senate Committee shows that German propagandists failed miserably in their efforts among the blacks. That they operated principally among the plantation Negroes of the South and there made no headway whatever, is significant. It is a splendid tribute to the Americanism of the, Negro. It might be supposed that among men and women who are not regular readers of the newspapers, who trust to the 'grapevine,' which makes a wireless station of every cabin, for most of their information, the fairy tales of the paid German agents would find fertile ground. But the Negro stood pat. 'You have no country,' was an insidious remark that was dinned into his ears night and day. 'You'll never get your Liberty Bond money back,' was another.
'You'll get forty acres of land if the Germans win,' they were told. And they were assured that victory for the 'humane' Germans meant an end of all hangings and instant leveling of all social lines in the United States. Many white 'intellectuals' in the North succumbed to sophistries and lies, but those black millions did not. Their hearts proved pure gold and they stood by Uncle Sam. The Secret Service needed no special trains for Negro excursions to internment camps. It is that same inborn spirit of loyalty to the Government that has prevented the I. W. W. from gaining converts among the blacks of the South, no matter how poor they are or how unjust their position economically."
Tributes by Wilson, Baker and Daniels
President Woodrow Wilson, in a special memorandum which accompanied his commutation of the sentences of a group of Negro soldiers who were charged with being implicated in the Houston (Texas) riot, paid tribute to the loyalty and fidelity of colored Americans. Similar tributes were frequently paid by Hon. Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War. In a special message of encouragement and confidence which he addressed to the Chicago Branch of the National Security League, which held a patriotic mass meeting at the Coliseum in Chicago, February 12, 1918, the Secretary of War wrote:
"As stated to you in the telegraphic reply which Mr. Emmett J. Scott, my Special Assistant, forwarded to you at my instance and request, I sincerely wish it were possible for me to be present on the occasion referred to., for I would then have a splendid opportunity to tell of the fine spirit with which the great test of the quality of America is being met by the colored people of our country. * * * I wish, however, in view of my enforced absence, to send, especially to the colored Americans of your community and elsewhere, just a few words of encouragement and confidence. * * * In a most encouraging degree, it is being regarded by colored citizens throughout the country as privilege and as a duty to give liberally of their substance, of their time, of their talents, of their energy, of their influence, and in every way possible, to contribute toward the comfort and success of our fighting units and those of our allies across the seas. The colored men, who were subject to draft, are to be commended
upon their promptness and eagerness in registering their names for service in the National Army, and likewise mention is made of the relatively low percentage of exemption claims filed by them. Those in the service of their country, I am sure, will prove faithful and efficient, and will uphold the traditions of their race."
In addition to the splendid tributes paid to Negro loyalty, time after time, by Colonel Theodore Roosevelt and William H. Taft, both former Presidents of the United States, Hon. Josephus Daniels, Secretary of the Navy, at a banquet given in his honor by the citizens of Albany, N. Y., on Flag Day, June 14, 1918, warmly commended the colored people for their never-failing devotion to the American flag. In introducing Searetary Daniels at the afternoon gathering, following a monster parade, former Governor Martin H. Glynn referred to the fact that Henry Johnson, an Albany colored soldier who was cited by General Pershing for extreme valor on the battlefield, was born in North Carolina, near Secretary Daniel's home. The Secretary, in mentioning Private Johnson in his speech, paid a high tribute to the colored people of the South; he said that while "there has been occasion to question the patriotism of some of the people in this country, the loyalty of the colored citizens had never been in doubt."'
Upon the floor of the House of Representatives of the United States,
a Southern Congressman---Hon. R. W. Austin, of Tennessee, paid glowing tribute
to Negro soldiers, and warmly commended the loyal part that the Negro citizenship
of the country was playing in helping to win the war. He read into the Congressional
Record the wonderful tribute which General Pershing, Commanding Officer
of the American Expeditionary Forces, paid to the colored soldiers, and
stated that not only in the military ranks were Negro patriots to be found,
but likewise they were serving in munition plants, in mines, in factories,
foundries, and upon the farm, doing their utmost to support their Government
in the time of stress and storm. He bore cheerful testimony to the loyalty
of this racial group and stated that in his section of the country, the
South, the Negro people had not only furnished their full quota for the
Army but had liberally subscribed to Liberty Loans, the Red Cross, and the
Army Y. M. C. A. funds. He closed his address by saying: "It gives
me pleasure to place upon the endur-
Negro Loyalty Never Doubted
Even though white men who held positions high in the public life of the country were, in some cases, under suspicion as to their loyalty and several members of the United States Congress were charged with entertaining anti-American ideas---one of the latter being convicted in a court of law on the charge of disloyalty, be it said to the everlasting credit of the American Negro, it was never necessary to question his loyalty. This racial group placed itself squarely on the side of a wider democracy for all peoples, as expressed by the President in his public utterances, and gave cordial sanction to that sentiment contained in the President's address delivered July 4, 1918, at Washington's Tomb, when he said: "What we seek is the reign of law based upon the consent of the governed and sustained by the organized opinion of mankind. "
Notable among the patriotic meetings and parades conducted in all sections
of the country to sustain the morale of the colored people were those which
occurred (1) at Wilmington, Delaware, under the direction of Mrs. Alice
Dunbar-Nelson, whose splendid efforts in mobilizing the colored women of
the country for war work is referred to elsewhere in this volume; and (2)
at St. Louis, Missouri, where a "Negro Loyalty Day" was observed,
June 13, 1918, featured by a "Loyalty Day Parade and Patriotic Benefit"
under the auspices of the Colored Women's Unit of the Council of National
Defense, with Mrs. Victoria Clay Haley, as Chairman. Colored men and women
from every walk of life, including thousands of school children enthusiastically
took a part in these patriotic demonstrations; some of the special sections
of the St. Louis parade included representatives of the Colored Waiters'
Alliance, Wayman A. M. E. Church, Summer High School, Banneker School, Simmons
School, Cottage School, Dessalines School, Lincoln School, Delany School,
colored employees of the Post office, St. Louis Medical Forum, Boosters'
Club, Young Ladies Reading Club, colored Patrons from Kinlock and Ferguson,
In New Orleans, La., a monster parade was held by colored citizens, each marcher carrying an American flag. Some of the strikingly worded. banners were: "Stand by Our President"; "What It Takes To Lick the Kaiser, We've Got It"; "Victory Calls Us"; "The Colored Man Is No Slacker." A squad of stevedores who had served under General Pershing in France and sailors from the Algiers Naval Training Station headed the parade; they were some of the troops who built the great docks in. France.
In point of numbers, enthusiasm and fidelity to the cause the parade held in Atlanta, Georgia, was also a tremendously significant demonstration. Negro laborers, factory hands, porters, and workers in stores and office buildings, chauffeurs, gardeners, and other colored employees were granted by their employers a special half-holiday in order that they might participate in the Loyalty Parade; and along with them marched hundreds of other men, women, and children, representing practically every phase of Negro life. Along the route of the parade the marchers were liberally applauded by their white fellow-citizens, who were much impressed with the spirit of the occasion and who gladly contributed to its success.
Other Instances of Loyalty
The enthusiastic farewells that were given to departing Negro draftees
and soldiers by their mothers, wives, and other relatives and friends furnished
by no means the least valuable evidence of the self-sacrificing loyalty
of this entire racial group. In numerous cities could be witnessed scenes
where Negro enlisted men marched through the streets, on their way to camp,
accompanied by cheering throngs of colored women, men, and children carrying
flags and filling the air with shoutings of patriotism. Nor was their loyalty
merely vocal, for it found additional concrete expression in the purchase
of Liberty Bonds, War Savings Stamps, and the like. Miss Kate M. Herring,
Director of Publicity for the North Carolina War Savings Committee,
has published in Northern and South-
Another extraordinary case indicating the sublime patriotism and loyalty of the Negro was that of David H. Haynes, a. colored farmer of Thibodeaux, Louisiana, who subscribed for $100,000 worth of the Fourth issue of Liberty Bonds while fighting was at its height, making note of his confidence in the Government and his determination to risk his all in defense, of the lofty purpose and high ideals that caused America's entrance into the arena of war. This is said to be the largest individual subscription made by any citizen in the state of Louisiana and was certainly the largest purchase of its kind made in the country by a colored man.
That the Negro was a willing factor in the war has been so convincingly demonstrated on so many occasions that additional evidence is scarcely necessary; a striking case in point, however, may be noted in the journeying at his own expense from Birmingham, Alabama,, to Washington, D. C., of Archie Neely, a stalwart young colored American, to enlist in the Army. It was stated that he bad been refused by the Local Boards at his home, denied the privilege of voluntary enlistment, but was so determined to battle for Uncle Sam that he scraped together the necessary funds and came to Washington to see the officials of the War Department in person and tender his services; his personality was so inviting and his plea so effective that he left the War Department with a paper authorizing him to proceed at once to Camp Meade.
Another striking individual case is that of John Ward, colored, of Goldsboro,
North Carolina, who, according to the sheriff of the
Aside from the immensely valuable part performed by the Negro press during the war, representative colored men and women in every section of the country appeared upon the public platform and delivered patriotic addresses before countless audiences composed of members of their racial group with a view of stimulating their patriotism, and to prevent any possibility of their yielding to sinister influences which tended to weaken their morale. All of them seemed to realize the fact that no matter how well equipped a nation may be in a material way, it cannot win any worth-while victory unless it is able to maintain among all groups of citizens that indefinable, spiritual something which is called "MORALE." In its general application it is a "moral condition" or a "mental state" which renders a man capable of endurance and of exhibiting courage in the presence of danger, but in time of war it becomes a spiritual force which keeps men constant in their devotion to their country's flag. Whether the Stars and Stripes was carried into battle by Negro soldiers or held in the hands of patriotic Negro citizens during the recent war as in all other wars, "the old flag never touched the ground."
A Negro's Idea of Loyalty
Henry Watterson, editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, a Democratic newspaper, published an editorial expression regarding the address of a colored man which was quite generally republished throughout the country. The address was also published in the Congressional Record. Mr. Watterson wrote:
With all his genius and culture, Roscoe Conkling Simmons is a Negro. His college degrees and personal refinement cannot change his blood or color or make him one bit less a member of a race regarded as socially, economically and mentally inferior to the white.
That Louisville is proud of him as a citizen; that the Negro people of the country look to him for leadership much as they did to his illustrious uncle, Booker T. Washington; that men of prominence in the nation accord him fellowship and a place in high councils, does not change his status.
For these very reasons, his words, spoken the other day before a gathering of his own race, should spread a blush of shame on the Caucasian skins of some who are conspicuous in the eyes of the nation just now. When men
of superior learning and vaunted super-race connections, intrusted with the solemn duty of serving and protecting their country's destiny, join with foreign tyrant cut-throats to heap contumely upon the nation's head and tie the hands stretched out to protect the lives and rights of Americans; when sniveling white pacifists join with all the traitor-slacker crew to invite, national disgrace and ruin, well may this member of an "inferior race" boast:
"We have a record to defend, but no treason, thank God, to atone or explain. While in chains we fought to free white men---from Lexington to Carrizal---and returned again to our chains. No Negro has ever insulted the flag. No Negro ever struck down a President of these United States. No Negro ever sold a military map or secret to a foreign government. No Negro ever ran under fire or lost an opportunity to serve, to fight, to bleed and to die in the republic's cause. Accuse us of what you will---justly and wrongly---no man can point to a single instance of our disloyalty.
"We have but one country and one flag, the flag that set us free. Its language is our only tongue, and no hyphen bridges or qualifies our loyalty. Today the nation faces danger from a foreign foe, treason stalks and skulks up and down our land. In dark councils intrigue is being hatched. I am a Republican, but a Wilson Republican. Woodrow Wilson is my leader. What he commands me to do I shall do. Where he commands me to go I shall go. If he calls me to the colors, I shall not ask whether my colonel is black or white. I shall be there to pick out no color except the white of the enemy's eye. Grievances I have against this people, against this Government. Injustice to me there is, bad laws there are upon the statute books, but in this hour of peril I forget---and you must forget---all thoughts of self or race or creed or politics or color. That, boys, is loyalty."
That this address was a notable I piece of diction and oratory means little, save as a tribute to the talent and erudition of its author and an augury of what may come from others of his race when given his opportunities. As a rebuke to the traitors and Americans not worthy of the name it deserves the widest reading, while such white men as La Follette, Stone, O'Gorman, Vardaman, Works, Bryan and all their ilk, instead, perhaps, of being tarred and feathered black, should be forced to read these words of a black man.
Negro Love for the United States
In one of his interesting letters from France, Ralph W. Tyler, the accredited representative of the Committee on Public Information, wrote as follows:
"For some time, prior to sailing for France, I was cognizant of a very general belief that many of the colored soldiers here in France, because of the unrestricted freedom and. absolute equality
doled out cheerfully to all people of the Allies, without respect to color, would locate. here after the war. I have interviewed hundreds of the boys, and I have not found one who expressed a desire to remain here. This reluctance to remain in France longer than the close of the war is no reflection upon La Belle France, but rather a high testimony to the loyalty of the colored man to his own and native land. I have talked with colored men who came from Dr. Vernon's "Everglades of Florida"; with many who came from the State of Texas, made famous so far as colored men are concerned, by Emmett J. Scott, the achieving Special Assistant to the Secretary of War; with those from Alabama, known principally because of the fact that the late Dr. Booker T. Washington laid the foundation for his fame there. I have talked with many from Mississippi, Georgia, and other Southern States, and, without exception, all, while willing to remain here until German militarism is crushed, want to get back 'home' to the States as soon as peace is declared. The burden of their song is: 'My country! Right or wrong, my country!' 'With all thy faults, I love thee still.'
"To me this eagerness, on the part of colored soldiers, in the face of the absolutely unrestricted freedom offered them by France, and while willing cheerfully to remain here, and die here if necessary, to secure world democracy, is the finest possible testimony to the loyalty to their country---the United States---of the 175,000 colored soldiers who are now in the service of their country on French soil. To a man they will return to the States as gladly as they embarked for France.
"Those of the race back in the States who complain because of a restricted sugar and flour allowance, etc., but who, nevertheless, enjoy Sundays and holidays for themselves as days bereft of work, perhaps would not complain were they over here at the front where, there is neither rest nor Sundays for the boys who must fight and work seven days in the week, rain or shine, hot or cold. But these boys over here accept most cheerfully the inclusion of Sundays and holidays as duty days, and rain and cold as no excuse for relief from work. and fight---a necessity, now, to achieve world democracy. The colored men of this Division, commissioned officers and men in the ranks, I find, are anxious to contribute their mite and their MIGHT to maintain the best traditions of the American Army."
Chapter XXX. Did the Negro Soldier Get a Square Deal?
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