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Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts & Humanities. 2017. 

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN

WORLD WAR ONE

"I am being constantly asked by white men in both the North and the South,  ‘How does the Negro regard this war and what about his willingness to share in its responsibilities.’  I have only one answer for such questions: ‘The Negro...is all American, he is willing to fight and die, that the world might be made safe for democracy.’ He only asks that he may share in this democracy."
William J. Edwards, Twenty-Five Years in the Black Belt

African Americans fought in World War I for the same patriotic reasons as white soldiers, but there was more at stake with their participation. 

The fight for democracy abroad was also a fight for democracy at home.  The United States Army was racist and segregated, and the majority of black servicemen worked behind the lines of combat as mechanics, cooks, and laborers loading and unloading critical supplies. Two African American divisions did see combat, the 92nd and the 93rd.  

The 366th regiment of the 92nd Division, filled mostly with Alabamians, trained at Camp Dodge in Iowa. They arrived in France in July 1918 and by August were stationed in the Saint Die sector, where they performed patrol duties. On the night of September 4th, eight members of the 366th earned the Distinguished Service Cross for successfully pushing back a German raid. The regiment would go on to win battle ribbons for their participation in the Meuse-Argonne and Marbache sectors. 

 "I had ample opportunity to observe the gross ignorance of the drafted men, the major portion of whom had been drafted from the coal fields of Alabama or from the cotton fields of the same state; fully one-fourth of them could not write their names. However, they were a willing lot and obedient. Within three months, the major portion of them were writing letters home. As a whole they proved to be the best drilled and best fighting regiment in the Ninety-Second Division."
John Brother Cade, Twenty-Two Months with “Uncle Sam”