Tuesday, February 6, 2018

BHM - African Americans in Times of War:

When the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, President Woodrow Wilson undertook a massive information campaign to expand support for the war.  He professed that, America would help make the world “safe for democracy.”  Democracy though, eluded an entire segment of American society who struggled with the realities of Jim Crow laws, legal segregation, and general racist attitudes.  African American citizens across the nation, especially in the American South had little access to high-paying jobs, educational opportunities, and suffered from disenfranchisement. Throughout American history, the military served as a prism through which to view larger social concepts, and the First World War was no exception.  The Marine Corps excluded blacks entirely, the Navy restricted their service to menial roles as cooks and stewards, and the Army remained racially segregated.  Despite this, many black men remained eager to reinforce their status as American citizens and fight for their country, hoping this would translate to broader social equality.  By war’s end, roughly 370,000 African Americans served in some capacity.

In order to meet the war’s demands, the War Department reorganized the US Army into a new divisional structure, and established one all-black combat division—the 92nd Division (mostly as a way of appeasing civil rights activists).  This division was comprised mostly of draftees and a select number of black volunteers and African Americans already serving in the Regular Army.  Additionally, the Army created numerous all-black support companies who served in other divisions. However, the experiences of black soldiers in World War I set the stage for the civil rights movement that emerged after the Second World War, when civil rights activists and black leaders ensured that established authorities would not continue to deny them civil liberties.  The military desegregated in 1948, and ultimately foreshadowed the larger desegregation movement that was about to begin.

#BlackHistoryMonthHHC #Sheshereforit

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