My Trip To The African-American History Museum

This past week I went with another class of mine to the African-American History museum. It was amazing and actually had a lot of information about African-American soldiers during WWI, which I wanted to share with you all here. Many African-Americans fought primarily as support troops and the ones who did see actual combat fought with the French, not America. Many believed that fighting would promote better treatment in their hometowns and where angry when not much changed. One of the most interesting things I learned was that W. E. B. Du Bois published an essay titled “Close Ranks” which stated that African-Americans should put aside their anger and differences and come together to fight for and support the war. Later, after seeing that fighting in the war did nothing for equality, he would admit that this editorial was a mistake. The exhibit also provides stats for how many soldiers were killed, wounded, etc. It said that 367,710 African-Americans were drafted and that about 400,000 served. 200,000 served overseas, 750 died in combat, and another 5,000 were wounded. The last two things I thought were most interesting was a quote they had displayed by Claude McKay, a Jamaican writer and poet, and a propaganda poster. McKay wrote, “If we must die, O let us nobly die, so that our precious blood may not be shed in vain… Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack, pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back” (1919). Lastly the poster reads, “Colored man is no slacker”. It depicts an army of other African-American soldiers marching and holding the American Flag, which is ironic since they had yet to gain any sort of equality.

2 thoughts on “My Trip To The African-American History Museum

  1. This is a really interesting perspective and piece of history! I never knew that African-American soldiers fought for the French in this war. The way that they didn’t get the treatment they expected after the war made me think of African-American soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary and Civil War. They kept being told that they were fighting for their country’s freedom, but they didn’t get any freedom (yeah, slaves were freed after the Civil War, but they still faced a lot of discrimination). That’s why a lot of their narratives are ignored, and we should press more awareness on them since they are just as legitimate as others. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I’m really glad you shared this perspective that often goes unnoticed. It makes me curious about what their experience was like during the war. I know that during other wars, their ability to directly fight was restricted and they had to face adverse conditions.

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