The Negro, in the great World War for Freedom and Democracy, has proved to be a notable and inspiring figure. The record and achievements of this racial group, as brave soldiers and loyal citizens, furnish one of the brightest chapters in American history. The ready response of Negro draftees to the Selective Service calls together with the numerous patriotic activities of Negroes generally, gave ample evidence of their whole-souled support and their 100 per cent Americanism. It is difficult to indicate which rendered the greater service to their Country---the 400,000 or more of them who entered active military service (many of whom fearlessly and victoriously fought upon the battlefields of France) or the millions of other loyal members of this race whose useful industry in fields, factories, forests, mines, together with many other indispensable civilian activities, so vitally helped the Federal authorities in carrying the war to a successful conclusion.
Emmett J. Scott
When war against Germany was declared April 6, 1917, Negro Americans quickly recognized the fact that it was not to be a white man's war, nor a black man's war, but a war of all the people living under the "Stars and Stripes" for the preservation of human liberty throughout the world. Despite efforts of pro-German propagandists to dampen their ardor or cool their patriotism by pointing out seeming inconsistencies between their treatment as American citizens and their expected loyalty as American soldiers, more than one million of them (1,078,331), according to the Second Official Report of the Provost Marshal General, promptly responded to, and registered under the three Selective Service calls. More than 400,000 Negro soldiers (367,710 draftees plus voluntary enlistments and those already in the Regular Army) were called to the colors and offered their lives in defense of the American flag during the recent war. Relative to their population, proportionately more Negroes were "drafted" than was true of white men.
The Negro was represented in practically every branch of military service
during the Great World War,---including Infantry, Cavalry, Engineer Corps,
Field Artillery, Coast Artillery, Signal Corps (radio or wireless telegraphers),
Medical Corps, Hospital and Ambulance Corps, Aviation Corps (ground section),
Nor was this the first instance in the Nation's history that this ever-loyal racial group rightly and cheerfully responded to the tocsin of war and made a military record of which any race might well be proud. In the Revolutionary War, in the War of 1812, in the Mexican War, in the Civil War, and in the War with Spain, the American Negro soldier has always distinguished himself by bravery, fortitude, and loyalty. His military record has always compared favorably with that of other soldiers.
It is because of the immensely valuable contribution made by Negro soldiers, sailors, and civilians toward the winning of the great World War that this volume has been prepared---in order that there may be an authentic record, not only of the military exploits of this particular racial group of Americans, but of the diversified and valuable contributions made by them as patriotic civilians.
A notable group of colored Americans, men and women, has joined, me in this effort adequately to present a reliable record of the many services and sacrifices that the Negro race has willingly laid upon the altar of Patriotism. It is a matter of profound satisfaction to have had the earnest cooperation of:
CARTER G. WOODSON, A. M., Ph. D., Director of Research, The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, whose monographs on Negro Life and History appear regularly in the "Journal of Negro History," the one publication of its kind in America. Dr. Woodson is a graduate of Harvard University, from which he received the degree of Ph. D., and is an authority on Negro History. His cooperation is, therefore, rightly to be prized as bringing to this work an appreciation of historical values.
RALPH W. TYLER, accredited Negro War Correspondent, who served overseas,
representing the Committee on Public Information. Mr. Tyler had full opportunity
at the front to know how colored soldiers acquitted themselves in camps
and upon the battlefields of France. His letters and official reports sent
to America and published through the Committee on Public Information in
various white and colored newspapers of the country contained first-hand
information concerning Negro troops overseas, and served to keep up the
morale of colored Americans at a time when there was much anxiety and complaint
among them. due to the fact that adequate
WILLIAM ANTHONY AERY, Publication Secretary of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, and MONROE N. WORK, in charge of the Division of Records and Research at Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, both of whom, being connected with the largest industrial schools among colored people in the United States, had full opportunity to observe the conduct and training of Negro soldiers in the various Vocational Detachments, Students' Army Training Corps, and Reserve Officers' Training Corps units; their counsel and data furnished have been of material assistance in the preparation of this volume.
MRS. ALICE DUNBAR-NELSON (formerly the wife of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the "Poet Laureate" of the Negro race), who wrote Chapter XXVII, entitled: "Negro Women in War Work." Mrs. Nelson, prominent in educational and literary circles, was actively engaged during the war in helping to mobilize the colored women of the country for effective war work, representing the Women's Division of the Council of National Defense; she traveled extensively in various parts of the country in the effort to promote patriotic activities among the colored women of America, and with eloquent tongue, trenchant pen, and untiring personal service helped them to make a record that will stand forever as a monument to the practical value and absolute dependability of Negro womanhood in a national crisis.
MISS EVA D. BOWLES, Executive Secretary in charge of the Colored Young Women's Christian Association, who did a notable piece of work in connection with the War Work Council, not only in the matter of selecting well-trained women to take charge of Hostess Houses that were provided at various camps and cantonments, but in keeping alive the fires of patriotism among the colored women of the country as she went from place to place lecturing and otherwise working for the betterment of social conditions in Army camps and especially in communities adjacent thereto. A full report of the work done by the organization, which this consecrated young woman so worthily represents, is contained in Chapter XXVII, entitled: "Negro Women in War Work."
LIEUTENANT T. T. THOMPSON, Personnel Officer and Historian of the 92nd
Division, to whom I am especially indebted for a large amount of official
data concerning the various activities of this im-
I am also especially indebted to CAPTAIN JOHN H. PATTON, Regimental Adjutant of the 370th Infantry Regiment, U. S. A. (better known as the Old Eighth Illinois Regiment) which unit actively participated in many a bloody conflict overseas and won imperishable fame. Captain Patton placed at my disposal the full and complete official record of the "Eighth Illinois " (370th) Regiment and it was largely from that record, of undeniable authenticity, that Chapter XV was compiled.
Grateful reference must also be made to DR. JESSE E. MOORLAND, International
Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association, with Headquarters at
Washington, D. C. Dr. Moorland was in charge of all the Y.M.C.A. work conducted
among colored soldiers in the various camps and cantonments throughout America
as well as overseas, and with a well-selected cabinet of efficient, consecrated
young colored men, rendered service of the utmost value in looking after
the moral and social welfare of thousands of Negro soldiers who were called
to the colors. Each and every Y.M.C.A. Secretary selected for service in
camps or cantonments at home or overseas was designated by Dr. Moorland
and his large corps of capable helpers co-
CAPTAIN E. L. SNYDER, Y.M.C.A. Secretary, who served for a time at Camp Grant with the 153rd Depot Brigade and later upon three battle fronts overseas, has placed the Author and his Race under many obligations for permitting me to use and in securing for use in this volume a large number of very valuable pictures or illustrations contained herein; they indicate the widespread and varied activities of Negro troops in American camps and cantonments and in service overseas. Many of these illustrations were photographed by him at the front---some being photographed while he was in danger of being wounded or killed by flying pieces of shrapnel, while others were secured from the French Official Photographic Division. They show both American Negro and French Colonial troops in action.
Most or all of the photographs of colored officers have been supplied by these officers themselves at my special request, and I wish in this way to express to them all my grateful acknowledgment, with my sincere regret that the space devoted to illustrations did not permit the publication of all of the photographs so kindly furnished.
Many of these colored officers have furnished me with first-hand information of interest and importance, duly verified by their comrades in arms, setting forth their individual exploits as well as those of the various units with which they were connected. To all of them, and to all others who have aided me in the preparation of this work, I am profoundly grateful.
In calling attention to these cooperating agencies, I want especially
to pay tribute to my loyal and efficient secretary, Mr. William H. Davis,
without whose generous support and valued services it would have
been difficult for me to have done this work or to have
In response to the natural desire and nation-wide demand for an authentic and reliable record of Negro military achievements and other of their patriotic contributions, this volume has been prepared as a lasting tribute to the American Negro's participation in the greatest war in human history. Much of the material, as the reader will note, is based upon first-hand study, official reports and data, and the greatest possible care has been taken in the effort to set forth definitely what has been done---not only by black men in America but by those other brave black soldiers of Africa (Senegalese, Soudanese, and Algerians) who served with the Allies and who rendered such timely and valuable service,--in helping to save to the casket of Freedom the precious jewel of Human Liberty!
Washington, D. C.,
June 15, 1919.
LOYALTY AND DEMOCRACY OF THE
PRAISED BY THE SECRETARY OF WAR
The following is the testimony of the Honorable Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War, to the loyal and enthusiastic support of colored civilians and the part played by colored soldiers in the war:
In a most encouraging degree, it is being regarded by colored civilians throughout the country, as a 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.
Hon. Newton D. Baker
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 proved faithful and efficient, and will uphold the traditions of their race.
I want the soldier who did not go over seas to know that he is as much a soldier as though he had taken part in the more spectacular side. I want to insist that the men who were in training in this country are just as much a part of the Army of the United States as if they had gone.
Now, I want to impress this upon you men, that if you feel that things have not been as you would like them---if there have been some things which you think were not as they should have been, you must try to forget them and go back to civil life with the determination to do your part to make the country what it should be.
After all, what is this thing we call "DEMOCRACY" and about
which we hear so much nowadays? Surely it no catch-phrase or abstraction.
It is demonstrating too much vitality for that. It is no social distinction
or privilege of the few, for were it that, it could not win the hearts of
peoples and make them willing to die for its establishment. But it is, it
seems to me, a hope as wide as the human race, involving men everywhere---a
hope that permits
NEWTON D. BAKER.
General Pershing's Tribute to the Negro Soldier
"The stories, probably invented by German agents, that colored soldiers in France are always placed in most dangerous positions and sacrificed to save white soldiers, that when wounded they are left on the ground to die without medical attention, etc., are absolutely false.
John J. Pershing
"A tour of inspection among American Negro troops by officers of these headquarters shows the comparatively high degree of training and efficiency among these troops. Their training is identical with that of other American troops serving with the French Army, the effort being to lead all American troops gradually to heavy combat duty by a preliminary service in trenches in quiet sectors.
"Colored troops in trenches have been particularly fortunate as one regiment had been there a month before any losses were suffered. This was almost unheard of on the western front.
"The exploits of two colored infantrymen in repelling a much larger German patrol, killing and wounding several Germans and winning the Croix de Guerre by their gallantry, has aroused a fine spirit of emulation throughout the colored troops, all of whom are looking forward to more active service.
"The only regret expressed by -colored troops is that they are not given more dangerous work to do. I cannot commend too highly the spirit shown among the colored combat troops, who exhibit fine capacity for quick training and eagerness for the most dangerous work.
JOHN J. PERSHING.
FORMER PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
"THE NEGRO'S PART IN THE WAR"
It is a source of pride and gratification to record the fact that Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, the great former President of the United States, whose sudden and untimely death occurred on January 6, 1919, made his last public appearance and address at a meeting held in Carnegie, Hall, New York, on November 2nd, 1918, under the auspices of the Circle for Negro War Relief. It was on this occasion that Colonel Roosevelt paid the following high tribute to the Negro Race in War:
"The Negro has a right to sit at the council board where questions vitally affecting him are considered, and at the same time, as a matter of expediency, it is well to have white men at the board too. And I say that, though I know that there are many men---Dr. Scott is one---whom I would be delighted to have sit at the council board where only the. affairs of white men are concerned. As things are now, the wisest course to follow is that followed in the organization of this circle.
"Such an organization as this, though started and maintained with a friendly co-operation from white friends, is intended to prove to the world that the colored people themselves can manage war relief in an efficient, honest and dignified way and so bring honor to their race. Every organization like this Circle for Negro War Relief is doing its part in bringing about the right solution for the great problem which the Chairman has spoken of this evening.
"I do not for one moment want to be understood as excusing the white man from his full responsibility for anything that he has done to keep the black man down; but I do wish to say, with all the emphasis and all the earnestness at my command, that the greatest work the colored man can do to help his race upward is by, in his own person and through co-operation with his fellows, showing the dignity of service by the colored man and colored woman f or all our people.
"Let me illustrate just what I mean when I say the advisability
of white co-operation and the occasional advisability of doing without white
co-operation. Had I been permitted to raise troops to go on the other side,
I should have asked permission to raise two colored
"On the other hand, with the other colored regiment, I should have had a colonel and a Lieutenant-colonel and three majors who would have been white men. One of them, Hamilton Fish, is over there now. One went over and was offered permission to form another regiment. He said no, he would stay with his sunburned Yankees. He stayed accordingly.
"Mr. Cobb has spoken to you as an eyewitness of what has been done by the colored troops across the seas. I am well prepared to believe it. In the very small war in which I served, which was a kind of a pink tea affair, I had a division, small dismounted cavalry division, ---where in addition to my own regiment we had three white regular regiments and two colored regiments; and when we had gotten through the campaign my own men, who were probably two-thirds Southerners and Southwesterners, used to say, 'The Ninth and Tenth Cavalry are good enough to drink out of our canteens.'
"And terrible though this war has been, I think it has been also fraught with the greatest good for our national soul. We went to war, as Mr. Cobb has said, to maintain our own national self-respect. And, friends, it would have been something awful if we hadn't gone in. Materially, because the fight was so even that I don't think it is boasting, I think it is a plain statement of fact, Mr. Cobb, that our going in turned the scale. Isn't that so? I think the Germans and their vassal allies would have been victorious if we hadn't gone in.
And if they had been victorious and we had stayed out, soft, flabby, wealthy, they would have eaten us without saying grace.
"Well, thank Heaven! we went in, and our men on the other side, our sons and brothers on the other side, white men and black, white soldiers and colored soldiers, have been so active that every American now can walk with his head up and look the citizen of any other country in the world straight in the eyes, and we have the satisfaction of knowing that we have played the decisive part. I am not saying this in any spirit of self-flattery. If any of you have heard me speak during the preceding four years you know that I have not addressed the American people in a vein of undiluted eulogy. But without self-flattery we can say that it was our going in that turned the scale for freedom and against the most dangerous tyranny that the world has ever seen. We acted as genuine friends of liberty in so doing.
"Now after the war, friends, I think all of us in this country, white and black alike, have also got to set all example to the rest of the world in steering a straight course equally distant from Kaiserism and Bolshevism.
"And now, friends, I want as an American to thank you, and as your fellow American to congratulate you, upon the honor won and the service rendered by the colored troops on the other side; by the men such as the soldier Needham Roberts we have with us tonight who won the Cross of War, the greatest War Cross for gallantry in action; for the many others like him who acted with equal gallantry and who for one reason or another never attracted the attention of their superiors and, well though they did, did not receive the outward and visible token to prove what they had done. I want to congratulate you on what all those men have done. I want to congratulate you on what the colored nurses at home have done and have been ready to do, and to express my very sincere regret that some way was not found to put them on the other side at the front. I congratulate you upon it in the name of our country and above all in the name of the colored people of our country. For in the end services of this kind have a cumulative effect in winning the confidence of your fellows of another color.
"And I hope---and I wish to use a stronger expression than 'hope';
I expect---and I am going to do whatever small amount I
"I don't ask for any man that he shall because of his race be given any privilege. All I ask is that in his ordinary civil rights, in his right to work, to enjoy life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that as regards those rights he be given the same treatment that we would give him if he was of another color.
Now, friends, both the white man and the, black man in moments of exultation are apt to think that the millennium is pretty near; that the sweet chariot has swung so low that everybody can get upon it. I don't think that my colored fellow-citizens are a bit worse than my white fellow-citizens as regards that particular aspiration. And I am sure you do not envy me the ungrateful task of warning both that they must not expect too much. They must have their eyes on the stars but their feet on the ground. I have to warn my white fellow-citizens about that when they say: 'Well, now, at the end of this war, we are going to have universal peace. Everybody loves everybody else.' I want you to remember that the strongest exponents of international love in public life today are Lenine and Trotsky.
"I will do everything I can to aid, to help to bring about, to bring nearer the day when justice and what in a humble way may be called the square deal will be given. And yet I want to warn you that that is only going to come gradually; that there will be very much injustice, injustice that must not over-much disappoint you and it must not cow you and above all it must not make you feel sullen and hopeless.
"And one thing I want to say, not to you here but to the colored
men who live where the bulk of the colored men do, in the South, and that
is always to remember the lesson which I learned from Booker Washington:
that in the long run, in the long run, the white
"To each side I preach the doctrine of thinking more of his duties than of his rights. I don't mean that you shan't think of your rights. I want you to do it. But it is awfully easy, if you begin to dwell all the time on your rights, to find that you suffer from an ingrowing sense of your own perfections and wrongs and that you forget what you owe to anyone else.
"I congratulate all colored men and women and all their white fellow-Americans upon the gallantry and efficiency with which the colored men have behaved at the front, and the efficiency and wish to render service which have been shown by both the colored men and the colored women behind them in this country."
Chapter I. How the Great War Came to America
Table of Contents