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  • African Americans and World War I

    Did World War I advance civil rights for African-Americans despite the poor and unfair treatment of Black US soldiers?

    African Americans and World War I

    Chad Williams – Hamilton College

    World War I was a transformative moment in African-American history. What began as a seemingly distant European conflict soon became an event with revolutionary implications for the social, economic, and political future of black people. The war directly impacted all African Americans, male and female, northerner and southerner, soldier and civilian. Migration, military service, racial violence, and political protest combined to make the war years one of the most dynamic periods of the African-American experience. Black people contested the boundaries of American democracy, demanded their rights as American citizens, and asserted their very humanity in ways both subtle and dramatic. Recognizing the significance of World War I is essential to developing a full understanding of modern African-American history and the struggle for black freedom.
    http://exhibitions.nypl.org/africana...rld-war-i.html
    Flag: USA / Location: West Coast

    Prayers.

    BoRG

    http://img204.imageshack.us/img204/8757/snap1ws8.jpg

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PtsX_Z3CMU

  • #2
    For some (free) reading on the subject, here is a masters thesis by Nathan Gergel entitled The African American Experience In World War I: Making America Unsafe For Hypocrisy: dl.uncw.edu/etd/2011-1/gergeln/nathangergel.pdf.

    The abstract:

    The impact of World War I on African Americans, especially on the soldiers who served in the perceptibly more tolerant French society, transformed the black community and served as an important, yet often overlooked, episode in the civil rights movement. Despite strong white resistance to blacks serving in the war, between 1917 and 1919 the mind-set of American blacks was fundamentally and permanently altered by African Americans’ experiences during that conflict. To understand the civil rights revolution in the era following World War II, one must consider the African American experience in the years of the First World War.

    During the war, the generally amicable relationship between the African American soldiers and French soldiers, French citizens, and colonial African and Asian troops led to a new black identity. The patriotic service of the African American soldiers, the war’s lofty aims for democracy, and rapid demographic changes all contributed to opening a new front in the battle for civil rights. Likewise, these changes fostered the “Harlem Renaissance” and a positive self-image for African Americans, often described as the “New Negro.”

    The analysis of diaries, mainstream newspapers, black newspapers, memoirs, letters, government documents, and secondary sources detailing the experiences of African Americans in the war and on the home-front, permits a more thorough understanding of African Americans’ rapidly changing expectations and perceptions brought-on by their wartime experiences. The resulting study illuminates how the African American community was significantly influenced by black soldiers’ descriptions of their interactions with the comparatively liberal French people. This analysis also includes an examination of the fear arising among the whites who sought to inhibit this transformation and African Americans’ response to these proscriptive efforts.

    President Wilson’s desire “to make the world safe for democracy” served to re-energize African Americans’ claims that democratic America could no longer tolerate racial hypocrisy. Conversely, for many whites, the war advanced and intensified their aspirations to retain their racial hegemony. But, unlike many of the lofty goals of the war, prideful African Americans’ heightened intolerance of the status quo and their war-induced commitments to bolder social and political change did not fall victim to the passing of time. These changes found expression in their music, political writings, and cultural organizations and represent an important advancement in their long struggle for equality in America.
    Also, here is an excellent discussion A War within a War by Dr. Jeffrey T. Sammons and Dr. John H. Morrow, Jr.



    In 191 days of fierce combat on the brutal front lines of World War I’s bloodiest trenches, one of the American Expeditionary Force’s units performed above and beyond the call of duty. The unit lost 280 men killed, but never gave up an inch of ground or lost a single man captured. Back home, the unit received accolades and the nom de guerre, “The Harlem Hellfighters,” despite the prevailing racism of the day and the fact that the entire unit was black. In the trenches, however, the unit, self-identified as “The Harlem Rattlers,” still dealt with racism and bigotry despite their proven prowess in combat. Dr. Jeffrey Sammons of New York University, and Dr. John Morrow, Jr. of the University of Georgia expand on the story of the 369th Infantry Regiment and take it beyond the injustices on the field of battle in their book, Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality. In this lecture, they will go even further, connecting the African American Soldiers’ struggle against the Germans and their own command to the wider context of racism in the Army and how the Harlem Rattlers set the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement.
    Definitely worth the hour.

    Comment


    • #3
      Eight Negro Infantry Regiments fought for the French, because the Americans did not want them. This is strange because the American Commander was John J. Pershing who had made his career leading Black Cavalry in action. It did work out as the French outfitted them with French Army gear and they were glad to get such good soldiers. The French were more than a little short on Frenchmen. Most of the Negro Infantry Regiments were placed separately inside French Divisions. Many French Infantry Divisions were down to two Infantry Regiments.

      Little known fact is most of the German Black population was because of American and French Black Troops that occupied the Rhineland after the Armistice. The Nazis tried to sterilize the ones they could catch!

      Pruitt
      Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

      Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

      by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks for the additional references - we do have some very well read people on here.
        "Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it"
        G.B Shaw

        "They promised us homes fit for heroes, they give us heroes fit for homes."
        Grandad, Only Fools and Horses

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
          Eight Negro Infantry Regiments fought for the French, because the Americans did not want them. This is strange because the American Commander was John J. Pershing who had made his career leading Black Cavalry in action. It did work out as the French outfitted them with French Army gear and they were glad to get such good soldiers. The French were more than a little short on Frenchmen. Most of the Negro Infantry Regiments were placed separately inside French Divisions. Many French Infantry Divisions were down to two Infantry Regiments.

          Little known fact is most of the German Black population was because of American and French Black Troops that occupied the Rhineland after the Armistice. The Nazis tried to sterilize the ones they could catch!

          Pruitt
          The opposition to using Afro Americans came from Southern states (oh what a surprise) and some protests made by Southern Army officers could have been taken as mutinous.

          Many of the units that went to France took early Jazz and rag time bands with them and introduced Europe to the music. There are a number of photos of these groups. The band of the Harlem Hellcats was noted as being especially fine performing some of the first ever recorded sessions.

          The largest post WW1 black population was in Berlin and had nothing to do with the Rhineland. The Nazis left them largely alone in WW2 and there was even a jazz club in Berlin attended by many off duty German officers despite Hitler's proscription of jazz as a decadent form of music. The BBC covered this in a recent wireless programme interviewing people who could remember it. Why they were left alone has never been explained, one theory is that there were simply not enough of them to be regarded as a problem but it has also been suggested that there may have been some secret Jazz aficionados amongst the senior party members. Quite possibly both applied. There was a larger black population in Paris and these were also left alone during the occupation. There was a much larger and more overt Jazz scene and again many German soldiers on leave attended the Paris club quite openly.
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

          Comment


          • #6
            Jazz band in France
            Attached Files
            Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
            Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Sergio View Post
              Thanks for the additional references - we do have some very well read people on here.
              Also take a look at From Harlem to the Rhine - Arthur W Little and
              Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality
              by Richard Slotkin

              also a short but useful article

              http://americacomesalive.com/2015/01.../#.VxILrLAmy1g
              Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
              Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

              Comment


              • #8
                .
                Attached Files
                Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                Comment


                • #9
                  Interestingly this group of US expat volunteers in France includes a couple of Afro Americans
                  Attached Files
                  Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                  Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
                    Little known fact is most of the German Black population was because of American and French Black Troops that occupied the Rhineland after the Armistice. The Nazis tried to sterilize the ones they could catch!

                    Pruitt
                    Never heard that one before. More likely black Germans came from the German colonies in Africa.
                    My worst jump story:
                    My 13th jump was on the 13th day of the month, aircraft number 013.
                    As recorded on my DA Form 1307 Individual Jump Log.
                    No lie.

                    ~
                    "Everything looks all right. Have a good jump, eh."
                    -2 Commando Jumpmaster

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 101combatvet View Post
                      Never heard that one before. More likely black Germans came from the German colonies in Africa.
                      No, they were from interracial couples that came about in the Rhineland during the occupation. There weren't that many but Pruitt is right, the Nazis tried their damndest to sterilize them all. Richard J. Evans has a good write up on this in his The Third Reich In Power, the middle volume of his trilogy.
                      Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by 101combatvet View Post
                        Never heard that one before. More likely black Germans came from the German colonies in Africa.
                        I think what Pruitt is referring to are mixed offspring from liasons between occupation soldiers of African origin and local women. The Nazis do seem to have been much more incensed by these than by straight forward Africans. I have seen the topic of Africans in Germany discussed elsewhere and if memory serves there wasn't much immigration from the former German colonies, in part because of the appalling treatment by the German settlers (the first extermination camp was set up in German West Africa in the early 1900s to eliminate rebellious tribes). Some Africans did come across as domestics etc with returning German businessmen and colonial officials but the number was low.
                        Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                        Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                          I think what Pruitt is referring to are mixed offspring from liasons between occupation soldiers of African origin and local women. The Nazis do seem to have been much more incensed by these than by straight forward Africans. I have seen the topic of Africans in Germany discussed elsewhere and if memory serves there wasn't much immigration from the former German colonies, in part because of the appalling treatment by the German settlers (the first extermination camp was set up in German West Africa in the early 1900s to eliminate rebellious tribes). Some Africans did come across as domestics etc with returning German businessmen and colonial officials but the number was low.
                          Well of course the number was low, but that was still the main source for African Germans.
                          My worst jump story:
                          My 13th jump was on the 13th day of the month, aircraft number 013.
                          As recorded on my DA Form 1307 Individual Jump Log.
                          No lie.

                          ~
                          "Everything looks all right. Have a good jump, eh."
                          -2 Commando Jumpmaster

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by 101combatvet View Post
                            Well of course the number was low, but that was still the main source for African Germans.
                            Not necessarily. Africans have been in Europe in more than just isolated examples since at least the late 18th century. In the 20s Berlin under the Weimar Republic was recognised as a congenial place for many minorities (for some this was to prove a fatal mistake).
                            Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                            Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by MarkV View Post
                              Not necessarily. Africans have been in Europe in more than just isolated examples since at least the late 18th century. In the 20s Berlin under the Weimar Republic was recognised as a congenial place for many minorities (for some this was to prove a fatal mistake).
                              Berlin may have been an exception, is Berlin now considered the Rhineland?I'm basing my assessment on Germans that lived in the area during the 30s and 40s, none of which had ever seen an African. I'm also basing this on American Occupation forces throughout Germany that would have arrested any black males in civilian clothing. Lastly, the Hell Fighter Regiments were NOT occupation troops and spend maybe two weeks in Germany during the end of hostilities before traveling back to France. So they apparently were a rather rare anomaly.
                              My worst jump story:
                              My 13th jump was on the 13th day of the month, aircraft number 013.
                              As recorded on my DA Form 1307 Individual Jump Log.
                              No lie.

                              ~
                              "Everything looks all right. Have a good jump, eh."
                              -2 Commando Jumpmaster

                              Comment

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