Negros in the U.S. Army in the XIX — the first half of the twentieth century


April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the United States is in a state of war with Germany, that on April 4 and was confirmed by the Senate on April 6 — the Congress. This step is planned and followed by the dispatch million Expeditionary Force in Europe at a time when the allies were exhausted massacre, peremolovshey a few years, hundreds of thousands of soldiers, the United States provided a ticket to the club arbiters of the fate of the post-war world.

But the way these grandiose plans fell unexpectedly weak desire of Americans to participate in the European slaughter. If the XIX century to the beginning of the war — with the UK if, with Mexico or Spain — Tens of thousands of volunteers joined the army, but now it did not happen. "Ten days after the announcement of the U.S. entry into the war the General Staff expected to have 700,000 volunteers, and there were only 4355" — said the historian André of the Caspian Sea. [1] Meanwhile, the U.S. Army numbered in May 1916, a total of 108.399 soldiers and officers [2], which was not enough to take part in World War II. In this regard, May 18, 1917 Congress passed a law on universal conscription, although specifying its "selective" (sample) application — originally planned to call before the end of the war a million people from all potential recruits (later the number, of course, it was markedly exceeded).

It was the first mobilization in the United States since the Civil War, 1861 — 1865 period. Conducted this "selective" call several peculiar — due to the reluctance of many white Americans to join the army for the war overseas (many of them even took up arms) formed a certain "skew" in the direction of increasing recruitment of blacks. Representing 10% of the U.S. population, while in the call 1917-1918 they accounted for 13% [3].

However, negros, subjected to rigid racial segregation and extrajudicial killings, called "lynching" (in 1916 the United States was recorded 66 such cases [4]), least of all want to fight for them to infringe on the rights of the country. The position of the Negro movement in the military issue is well illustrated by an editorial in one of its leaders, William Du Bois, published in August 1918 in his magazine "The Crisis." Dubois stated bluntly that when it is "our country", and that's when it will be "our war" [5].

Therefore, the leaders of the United States in time of war sounded the most radical statements about the glorious future that awaits the black population of the country after winning the war in which they were called to attend. "In this war, we affirm a new spirit of equality and fraternity — claimed, for example, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels United States. — For too long, America has been enslaved for too long in power was cast. "

"With thousands of your sons who are in [the military] camps and in France — turned to black President Woodrow Wilson — at the end of the war you should expect nothing less than obtaining full civil rights — the same as those enjoyed by other citizens [U.S. ] "[6].

As a result, even the same DuBois in July 1918 addressed to the "crisis" in an editorial article "Close ranks," calling it his brothers exert forces in the war with Germany.

"For us, the colored race, the outcome [of the war] is an important — wrote Dubois. — Imagine a German victory — it would mean the end of the aspirations of blacks and other dark races for equality, freedom and democracy. Do not hesitate! After this war will be cured of your grievances, so somknite our ranks shoulder to shoulder with our white citizens of one nation and stand and fight for democracy ". [7]

Other prominent leaders of the Negro movement — such as for example the magazine "The Messenger" Chandler Owen and Philip Randolph, campaigned against blacks support for the war — in 1918 were jailed in New York on the accepted 15 July 1917 law on espionage. According to this law have been harassed and speakers with the socialists of pacifist positions — one of the leaders of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World Eugene V. Debs, in June 1918, he was convicted of anti-war speech of 10 years in prison.

For 10 years he was sent to prison Livenuortskuyu in the same year, another prominent leader of the Industrial Workers of the World Negro Ben Fletcher. All during the war in the U.S. Espionage Act — which was interpreted very broadly — according to Andrea Kaspi, was arrested in 2168, of which 1,055 were sentenced to various terms [8].

As for the military service of blacks in the First World War, by August 1918, when the American Expeditionary Force entered into full-fledged combat operations in France, out of a million of his soldiers were about 200 thousand negros [9]. Their use was in many ways similar to what it was during the Civil War. A number of black regiments brilliantly distinguished himself in battle — the soldiers 369th, 370 th, 371 th and 372 th infantry regiment received hundreds of French "Croix de Guerre» (Croix de Guerre) and American "Crosses for distinguished service» (Distinguished Service Cross). Thus from 200,000 Negro soldiers in France only "42,000 … carried the military service, and the rest were built and repaired roads, unloading ships, dug trenches, prepare food and burned corpses. All this negros performed under the supervision of designated white officers, which was known to be "able to handle" the black ". [10] "Only one in five black soldiers arrived in France, took part in the battle, while in general in the American Expeditionary Force, two of the three soldiers took part in the battle," — writes the American historian David Kennedy. [11]

Expressive and loss statistics of Negro soldiers of the American army on the European battlefields of the First World War: "To the black soldiers of the 92nd and 93rd Divisions [but only those of the Negro, and participated in the fighting] are 773 out of 52,947 soldiers killed in the battle of American Expeditionary Forces , less than 2% [or rather, even a little less than 1.5%] of the total losses from 4408 … 202,628 U.S. casualties were negros [2%] "[12]. And this despite the fact that the negros were, as mentioned above, up to 20% of the members of the American Expeditionary Force in France.

In general, on how the U.S. military command has seen an opportunity to engage black recruits, say documents emanating from the Office of the General Staff of the operational planning dollars. Head of the Colonel Anderson May 16, 1918 issued an "Order on black recruits", bluntly stating in it that "black recruits can not be used against the enemy forces." He noted that "most negros are called from the southern states," and, as a rule, have no education, no profession, doing unskilled work there — "every southern state has blacks in blue overalls working with pick and shovel" [13] . In this regard, he recommended a "black recruits to arrange a [military] camps near their homes, to organize into labor battalions and used to work … so black recruits, clothed in blue overalls, will continue to work with pick and shovel in the same way as you did before "[14]. Similarly, the ratio was in the U.S. Army in France to being there in black soldiers. As David Kennedy, "almost all white officers scorned senior titles under their command … black soldiers often distracted in France in the summer of 1918 from the training in the camps and sent to work as porters or laborers" [15].

However, it is possible to use black soldiers in battle, at the General Staff believed the U.S. is not enough. The point here was not only popular at the time of racial prejudice. Colonel Anderson sufficiently deployed outlined his reasons in a letter to the inspector general of the U.S. troops, Brigadier-General Lytle Brown, who served as head of the department of planning in the Divisional Office of the General Staff Military Planning United States:

"A huge percentage of blacks is ignorant and illiterate, employed on daily work. These people do not have a huge number of cases, moral fortitude to confront the difficulties and to the environment of field service, especially in France, with its damp cold winters. Representatives of the lower social strata of the Negro population of the forest hinterland have no moral fortitude and strength to stand on the front line against the German troops that are staffed by people with high levels of education and well-prepared [for the war]. The enemy is always looking for a weak spot in the line of [front] and he can find it in that part of the line [Front], which keep the troops collected from the dregs of the representatives of the colored race, and he can focus all [force], which is against them "to break through the front" [16].

Indeed, if the German army in a very large extent consisted of industrial workers, accustomed to working on organized labor and modern technology that has acquired extensive experience during the war, then just come and get some general military training camps in the southern heartland of negros boast not could represent the "weak link" of the American army.

The exception was the number of Negro parts formed before the war in the National Guard, and there acquired a certain proficiency. Among them, the most famous 369th Infantry Regiment (369th Infantry Regiment), also known as the "Harlem hell fighters» (Harlem Hellfighters), established in 1913 in New York City as the 15th Regiment of the National Guard. And had a similar background to the above-mentioned 370 th, 371 th and 372 th infantry regiments distinguished themselves during the war in France. Many of them also wore expressive nicknames — so that the first 370 soldiers were called "Black Devil» (Black Devil). These army units were black and the officers up to senior management. "It should be noted that the 370-m regiment was originally the 8th Illinois National Guard Regiment, commanded by Colonel Franklin A. Denison, a Negro, and all available officers in the regiment were black … and a 369-m shelf almost all the officers were black" [ 17] with the exception of the regimental commander, Colonel Heywood.

However, during the war in the proportion of the 92nd Infantry Division, which included the 369 th, 370 th, 371 th and 372 th regiments changed: "In the 92 th Division at the beginning of the war 82% of the officers was black, to By war's end, there were 58% "[18]. To a large extent this was due to the replacement policy of blacks by white officers of the military leadership. In particular, 12 July 1918 from his post was removed commander 370th Regiment Colonel Denison, then still a number of black officers of this regiment was zamenenbelymi.

During the war, the officers of the army en masse prepared special officer of the school, some of which are specialized in the training of black leaders. The opening and operation of these schools was required to Colonel Charles Young, the first black man in that position in the U.S. Army, begins in the 1890s, served in the cavalry "parts of the buffalo."

The first of these schools began to work in the spring of 1917 at Fort Huachuca in Arizona [19], in June 1917 acted School at Fort Des Moines in Iowa, which released October 15, 1917 639 black lieutenants and captains (out of 1,250 candidates admitted to it) [20]. This was the only issue of school in Des Moines, however, still some 700 black officers were trained during World War I in other similar centers. [21] Given that the total number of officers in the U.S. Army at the time the war ended November 11, 1918 was 203,786 people, so the blacks among them, as the natives of the National Guard and "parts buffalo" and produced in the course of the war, it was a little more than half a percent .

Operational use Negro 92nd Division, aided by the fact that in April 1918 it came under the command of the French army, to involve it in the front with the native parts of the French colonies. The French, despite their rigidity in the capture and management of overseas colonies and hefty European snobbery, however, saw in their subjects people of color (which explains the fact that during World War II almost most of the units of the "Free French" originally made colonial part, fought for the liberation of their mother country).

This kind of attitude of the French to black soldiers, and especially to the officers turned to white Americans unusual. Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force in France, August 7, 1918 issued a special guide for the French secret of how, according to the American command, you need to behave with blacks, including the resources at these shelves, as mentioned above, blacks officers. This document, published in May 1919 in the Journal of the American Negro "crisis", it is worth it because of the thoroughness of explanations quoting in full:

"The French military mission, located in the U.S. Army.

Classified information concerning the Negro American units.

This [the directive] is important for the French officers appointed to command the black American troops, or living in close contact with them, in order to have an accurate idea of the place, which is occupied by negros in the United States. The information in this directive information should be brought to the attention of the officers, and in their best interest to keep this information has been studied and distributed [them] on. It will be passed as the French military through civilian authorities in order to inform on the subject of French living in military camps, occupied by black American troops.

1. The American attitude to the Negro question can be debated for many French. But we, the French, it is useful to its charter in another monastery, if we begin to discuss what someone calls "prejudice." American public opinion unanimously in the Negro question and does not allow any of [his] discussion.

A growing number of blacks in the United States (about 15 million) would provide for the white race in the country threatened with extinction, if not unbridgeable gulf between them.

Since this is not a danger for the French people, the French public was accustomed to with the friendly and lenient treatment of blacks.

These indulgence and friendly attitude are issues that afflict Americans. They consider it an insult to their national policy. They fear that contact with the French awaken to the aspirations of black Americans, which for them [whites] are unacceptable. It is imperative that action [French] did not go into a deep contradiction with the American public opinion.

Despite the fact that the black man is a citizen of the United States, it is considered as being ceded by the white man, with whom relations are possible only on paper. Black constantly Censured for their lack of intelligence and cunning, and for their tendency to inappropriate closer relationship [with whites].

Vices of Negroes are a constant threat to the [white] Americans that they should be strictly suppressed. So, finding a black American troops in France has led to as many complaints about the attempted rape, as well as all the other armies. This is despite the fact that black soldiers directed by us [France] were selective in the physical and moral parameters, and in general, the number of rejected [black] for mobilization was disproportionately large.


1. We have to prevent any increase intimacy between French officers and blacks [American] officers. We can be polite and accommodating with the latter, but we do not have to deal with them as a white American officers, as it is deeply hurt the latter. We do not have to eat with them [with black] do not have to shake hands with them, try to talk to them or meet out military duties.

2. We do not have to evaluate black soldiers too well, especially in the presence of white Americans. Is correct to recognize their good quality and performance of their duties, but only moderate expression and strictly in accordance with the truth.

3. Make a point to prevent the local population from "spoiling" the Negroes. [White] Americans are enraged by any public expression of intimacy between a white woman and a black man. Recently, they have provoked public protests which went into the cinema Vie Parisienne film "Children of the Desert", which shows the [white] woman in a "private room" with a black man. Friendly relations with white women and black men are the cause of deep feeling for our [French] experienced colonial officials who see it as a threat to the prestige of the coming of the white race [French colonies].

Military power can not directly intervene in the matter, but it can through the civil authorities to exercise some influence on the population "[22].

It is worth noting that John Pershing in 1890 he served in the 10th Cavalry Regiment, one of the few parts of the human Negro American army, including the so-called "parts of Buffalo," distinguished themselves during the war against the Indians and Spaniards, gaining for it at West Point, nicknamed "Black Jack". So the experience of command black soldiers he had, and to some extent relied on it during the First World War, when even awarded one of the two divisions of the Negro in France the same symbolism of black buffalo as that of the "Buffalo Soldiers" on the Indian frontier. (Actually, "part of the buffalo" in the First World War did not participate — they have served the United States.)

Yes, it should be noted that not only were negros in separate shelves, and the fact that these regiments in France were organized into separate Negro Division (92nd and 93rd Infantry), apparently in order to minimize contact with the white soldiers. During the Civil War, the Negro regiments, by the way, also came down into separate divisions — for example, in 1864, during the siege of Petersberg in Virginia.

The U.S. command is probably intended and the consequences of an early end of the war, when hundreds of thousands of Black soldiers to return back to the States. Many in the memory were radical statements by President Wilson that, after the war negros receive the same rights as whites. In addition, the killing at the front in Europe as white men, black Americans could lose a sense of humility and faith of white supremacy in its firmness. By the way, after the return of black soldiers in the U.S. there really began to emerge Negro paramilitary self-defense — for example, in July 1919 such units repulsed the attack of white soldiers and sailors on black neighborhoods in Washington and even took control of the federal capital!

1919 earned in U.S. history known as "bloody." C June to December to 25 cities of the race riots erupted, which have claimed 120 blacks. [23] In this case, it is noteworthy that the largest of them did not take place in the South, where there was still concentrated the bulk of the blacks, and in the West and North. In part, this was due to the relocation here during the war, half a million blacks from the southern states, who took the place of the departed to the war of white workers. The largest of race riots in 1919 was Chicago, which lasted from July 27 to August 3, which killed 25 blacks (about 20% of the victims of the massacre that year), and 10 white. This industrial center of the United States has experienced before that the greatest influx of blacks from the South — in 1910 — 1920 years the white population of the city grew by only 21%, and black — 2.5 times.

The response to the need "to indicate their place of Negroes" in the twenties was a sharp increase in the number of the Ku Klux Klan, revived in 1915. In 1923 — 1924 years, a new clan united in their ranks about 2 million Americans. [24] August 8, 1925 in downtown Washington, right in front of the Capitol, was the most grandiose parade of "klansmenov" in their intimidating uniforms, attended, according to various estimates, from 50 to 200 thousand people. At the same time, which is important if the first clan acted in 1860-1870-s in the southern states, the latter based in the Midwest and has been popular, and in the North, he joined primarily by residents of large cities. Thus, only one of Chicago in the 1920s in the clan consisted of 50,000 people — as many as in the entire state of Louisiana, one of the strongholds of the Deep South. In New York, when there were 16 thousand "klansmenov" 36000 — in Philadelphia, while in one of the capitals of the South, Atlanta — 20000.

To tighten the segregationist policies and the authorities have moved — not only in the South but also in the West. "When the black mass began to move to the cities in Indiana 1920s, the white population reacted restrictive policies [ie, segregation] … By 1929, the school [the state capital] Indianapolis were completely segregated. Not all northern cities had policies similar to Indianapolis. Some cities, like Chicago, officially avoiding segregation, but … schools were de facto segregated "[25]. In the South, segregation is intensified by the adoption of "racial laws", such as that promulgated March 10, 1924 the General Assembly of Virginia, "The Racial Integrity» (Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924), was administered to all the documents the state of the mandatory recording of the racial origin of man . The law also established that "all mixed marriages and white and color are prohibited by this law", and "under this Act, the term" white person "applies only to a person who does not have a single drop of blood, other than Caucasians, white people have considered and people with 1/16 or less blood American Indian and have no other impurities, neevropeoidnoy blood "[26].

We can say that to some extent the United States returned to the racial politics to the level of the middle of the XIX century.


[1] A. Caspi daily life of the United States in an era of prosperity and the "dry law". 1919-1929. Moscow, 2008, p. 19.

[2] Votaw John F. The American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. Oxford, 2005, p. 7.

[3] H. Aptheker History of African Americans. The modern era. M., 1975, p. 138.

[4] H. Aptheker Ordinance. cit, p. 133.

[5], p. by: Wolters Raymond. Du Bois and His Rivals. Columbia, 2002, p. 123.

[6], p. by: Aptheker Herbert. Negroes in Wartime / / "The New Masses". 22.04.1941, p. 14. In the Russian translation of this work Aptheker (Aptheker G. op. Cit., P. 133) translator badly misquoted Wilson, with several more (Aptheker G. op. Cit., P. 138) already in the passage they are more true.

[7] Text: Heinze Andrew R. The Columbia Documentary History of Race and Ethnicity in America / / The Columbia Documentary History of Race and Ethnicity in America. New York, 2004, p. 505.

[8] A. Caspi Ordinance. cit, p. 23. According to others, "more than two thousand radicals have received a total of 25 thousand years in prison" (History of the United States: 4 volumes, Volume 1. M., 1984, p. 373).

[9] H. Aptheker History of African-Americans: the modern era. M., 1975, p. 139.

[10] H. Aptheker Ordinance. cit, p. 139.

[11] Kennedy David M. Over Here: The First World War and American Society. 25th ed. Oxford, 2004, p. 162.

[12] Keene Jennifer D. World War I. Greenwood (Connecticut), 2006, p. 101.

[13], p. by: Keene Jennifer D. Doughboys, the Great War, and the Remaking of America. Baltimore, 2001, p. 40.

[14], p. by: Richardson Riché. Black Masculinity and the US South: From Uncle Tom to Gangsta. Athens (Georgia), 2007, p. 86.

[15] Kennedy David M. Op. cit, p. 199.

[16], p. by: Nelson Peter N. A More Unbending Battle: The Harlem Hellfighter's Struggle for Freedom in WWI and Equality at Home. New York, 2009, p. 57.

[17] Motley Mary. The Invisible Soldier: The Experience of the Black Soldier, World War II. Detroit, 1975, p. 14.

[18] Keene Jennifer D. World War I. Greenwood (Connecticut), 2006, p. 97.

[19] Motley Mary. The Invisible Soldier: The Experience of the Black Soldier, World War II. Detroit, 1975, p. 12.

[20] Stock Janice. Imazing Iowa. Nashville, 2003, p. 72; African Americans at War: An Encyclopedia: In 2 vol. Vol. I. Santa Barbara (California), 2004, p. 88

[21] African Americans at War: An Encyclopedia: In 2 vol. Vol. I. Santa Barbara (California), 2004, p. 551.

[22] The full text. In the passages of the document cited in many American historical publications. For example, the section "Conclusion" is almost entirely quoted as saying in the book.: Motley Mary. The Invisible Soldier: The Experience of the Black Soldier, World War II. Detroit, 1975, p. 13.

[23] Brown Nikki LM, Stentiford Barry M. The Jim Crow Encyclopedia. Greenwood (Connecticut), 2008, p. 128.

[24] There is also much higher estimates — to 5 — and even 6 to 9 million "klansmenov."

[25] Parkerson By Donald H., Parkerson Jo Ann. Transitions in American Education: A Social History of Teaching. New York, 2001, p. 48.

[26] The full teksthttp :/ /

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