Segregation and Race in WW1

Segregation and Race in WW1


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In World War 1, nearly 400,000 African-American enlisted, but only about 42,000 served overseas. Most African Americans were assigned as cooks, laborers, and laundrymen. Those who were in combat were segregated into their own regiments, often supervised by white officers and encountered prejudice and discrimination. Despite these obstacles, The 369th , probably the most famous African African regiment during the first world war, were the first Americans to see combat in World War 1. They were also called the “Harlem Hell-Fighters”. The entire regiment received the French Croix De Guerre for their service against French troops.

Many African Americans entered the war to prove their civic duty to America and hopefully improve their social and political situation with the rest of the country. Sadly, when the soldiers returned, not much had changed in America. W.E.B. De Buis, a famous black writer, stated “We return. We return from fighting. We return fighting.” There was an outburst of race riots against blacks and a postwar resurgence of white supremacy. In contrast to this, WW1 brought upon the Great Migration and empowered black men and women to assert their citizenship and protest racial injustice.

The war brought Americans together in a way in that African-Americans were given the opportunity to fight for theur country. Everyone was fighting for the same cause, which may have brought a sense of unity on the home front, despite race. What doesn’t make any sense is the treat of black people when the returned home. You would think that they would be appreciated for their war efforts, just like white soldiers, but black soldiers came home to even worse treatment than bef0re. Whites may have felt empowered by the war, but it was still no excuse for continuing to kill and look down upon those who fought for their country. The height of the Ku Klux Klan hatred came in the years following World War I with lynchings and beatings occurring throughout the 1920s and 1930s.