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tv   African American Soldiers Post- World War I Activism  CSPAN  July 18, 2020 8:00am-8:56am EDT

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>> now you are watching american history tv, every weekend, beginning saturday at 8:00 a.m. eastern, we bring you 48 hours of unique programming, exploring our nation's past. american history tv is only on c-span3. lara: now i would like to introduce our first speaker for this morning, dr. chad williams. he is the samuel j. and augustus specter professor at history and african-american studies at brandeis university. he specializes in african-american and modern united states history, world war i, and african-american intellectual history.
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he is the author of "torchbearers of democracy: african american soldiers in the world war i era," which received the 2011 liberty legacy foundation award from the organization of american historians and the 2011 distinguished book award from the society for military history. he is also a part of so many projects that i continue to be talking about around the nation, as we are giving these teacher professional development workshops. one of those is called world war i america. you can find a video with him as well as some questions and things that he helped curate to really change how our students think about world war i. so it is a true pleasure to have dr. williams back. he is currently completing a book on w.e.b. dubois and world war i, just completing a radcliffe fellowship with harvard university. this morning, dr. williams will discuss african-american soldiers and the rise of the new negro. please help me in welcoming back to the museum and memorial our friend, dr. chad williams. [applause]
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dr. williams: good morning, everyone. hope everybody is doing well. i hope we are all awake, got our coffee. we are good? all right. thank you for waking up, for being with me this morning. thank you, lara, for your introduction. you are so good at what you do, really. a remarkable host, so gracious. i want to thank you and the entire leadership of the national world war i museum. i want to thank camille for all of your help, assistance with logistical support in getting me here. getting all of us here certainly would not have been possible without you. world war i centennial fatigue i realize is a real thing. it has been kind of a long four years, maybe even longer than that, but i am glad that we are spending some extra time thinking about the history of the war, its legacy, going into the postwar period.
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because it is critical, as we learned yesterday, to really think about what the war meant, on a global scale, its legacies, but also what it meant for certain groups of people, certain groups who the very meaning of war and peace itself is very complicated, very vexed. the meaning of peace and war is sometimes blurred when thinking about their lives and their experiences. and that is certainly the case for african americans and other peoples of african descent more largely throughout the diaspora. so i would like to start in 1919, specifically in june of 1919. the issue of the crisis, june 1919, "crisis," the news magazine of the naacp edited by w.e.b. dubois, arguably the foremost black scholar, intellectual activist of his day.
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in this particular issue, he published an article titled "nsa an essay toward a history of the black man in the great war." dubois had recently returned to the united states after three spending three months in france. he was in paris during that moment that arthur mellon described so vividly last night, when dubois described how the destinies of mankind were centered to try and make sense and come to, try terms with the war, and dubois needed to be there, insisted he needed to be there, representing black folk throughout the world. he organized the pan-african congress, which was intended to bring attention to these concerns of people of african descent at the
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versailles peace conference. but during his time in france, he also interviewed african-american troops, in order to get first-hand testimonies about their experiences. this is dubois right there, actually on the front in lemans, france. he came away stunned by the systematic pressures that black officers and soldiers endured. in this "crisis" article, dubois who, you may know famously, in s of blackook "soul doublewrote about consciousness, african americans wrestling with being both black and being american. dubois suggested that african-american soldiers in france had experienced their own unique form of double consciousness, their double experience, as he wrote, "was shaped by the deliberate and devilish persecution from their own countrymen, coupled with a taste of real democracy and
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world-old culture." the racism of white americans stood in stark contrast to the french who treated african-american soldiers with colorblind expect. "the effect," dubois wrote, "was revolutionizing." as black troops began to hate oppression like they had never hated before. they had been transformed by their overseas experience, and and had become new men. far from filling them with desires to escape from their race and country, he wrote, "they were filled with a bitter, dogged determination, never to give up, and to fight for negro
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equality in america." a new, radical negro spirit has been born in france, which leaves us older radicals far behind. in the african-american community throughout the united states, it was a product of domestic and global up peoples in world war i and its aftermath. the new negro movement was characterized by heightened racial pride, international consciousness, collective organization, and a renewed commitment to self-defense against white racial violence. the new negro, unlike the old negro of the past, had no fear. we can point to many factors that gave rise to the new negro, such as the great migration, international movements in russia, ireland, and other locations, the growth of a radical black press, the
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emergence of a host of new, militant black political organizations. but i argue that the most crucial ingredient to the emergence of the revolution of the new negro movement was defiance stemming from black support and military participation in the world war. what makes dubois' june "crisis" essay so significant is that he explicitly linked the arrival of the new negro with the experiences of the some 380,000 black soldiers who had fought and labored for the united states, in america and in particularly in france during the war. the black veteran, emerging from the crucible of war, with an unbowed determination to fight for racial justice and true democracy, symbolized the development of a spirit of militancy that would be the hallmark of the new negro.
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i can recall the moment when i became fascinated in this relationship between black soldiers in the new negro. i was in graduate school, and i encountered a book by richard powell on african-american art. fascinating book. as i was reading, i came across a picture he included in the book. here it is. i wish i had a better image of it, but this picture is simply titled "the soldier." it was painted by edwin a. harleston. harleston took classes with w.e.b. dubois. he passed on graduate studies at harvard university to instead pursue a passion for art. he received formal training at the boston museum of fine art
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and would become, in dubois' words, "the leading portrait painter of the race." harleson return home to became ais family and pillar of the city's black community. the war politicized harleson. he served as president of charleston's first naacp chapter, established not coincidentally in 1917. he continued to paint, and in 1919, as black soldiers returned
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home to charleston and the country, he produced the soldier. it is a powerful, visual representation of the new negro. he has been decorated, you can see the metals on his arms, officer stripes, serving his country with right. but he has also been hardened, by war, and we can infer by racism as well. arms crossed, his face conveys grim determination. he is now ready to fight for his rights and the rights of his people at home. and i liked the picture so much, it became the cover of my book. harleston's painting reflects the image of how the black soldier operated as a cultural symbol for the arrival of the new negro, in the context of the harlem renaissance in the trope of the new negro as the returning soldier, this trope occupied center stage. but it is important to move beyond trope, beyond discourse, beyond metaphor, to understand the ways in which black veterans were self-conscious historical actors and quite literally embody the new negro. i am interested in real people, real lives, real experiences. while furiously proud of their
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many black soldiers returned home, following the war, deeply disillusioned with american democracy, due to their battles with racism in the military. it translated into their heightened awareness and a commitment to challenge white supremacy and uplifting the race during the postwar period. this was expressed in multiple ways, from the subtle to the spectacular. so what i hope to explore with you this morning is how the postwar experiences of black war veterans reflect the multi-dimensional nature of the new negro movement, its ideological diversity, and the need to center black people in our understanding of the 1919 moment. but first, we have to start with the war itself and the context that african americans were
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facing on the eve of american entry into the war. at this time, the vast majority of african americans were in , in effect, citizens in name only. jim crowe segregation. debt peonage. convict leasing. horrific racial violence. this was the nadir, the lowest point of modern black rights and citizenship, according to the historian and world war i veteran rayford logan. but african americans had not surrendered the fight for equality. when we talk about the new negro movement, it is important to acknowledge that it did not emerge out of a vacuum. even in the midst of the nadir, african americans fought back and laid the groundwork for what
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would become the modern civil rights movement. so we can point to ida b wells, and her anti-lynching activism, organizations by the afro-american league, the niagara movement, established by w.e.b. dubois, which would be the forerunner for the naacp, which was founded in 1909. or radical voices like hubert harrison, who associated with the socialist party. william monroe trotter and his protests against "birth of a nation," the spectacularly racist 1915 blockbuster film that woodrow wilson allowed to be screened in the white house. and speaking of woodrow wilson. [crowd murmuring] perhaps he should have thought more carefully about his words on april 2, 1917, as he spoke before the united states congress and issued a
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declaration of war against germany. and we all know the words. speech, wilsone proclaimed, "the world must be made safe for democracy. we are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. we shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the face and freedom of nations can make them." perhaps more than any other group, african americans seized upon the blatant hypocrisy of wilson's pledge and appropriated micro seat as an ideological weapon in the cause for equality. by framing the war as a struggle over the future of global democracy, wilson created the ideological terrain for the emergence of the new negro, both in the united states and beyond. events in summer 1917 painfully revealed that black people would face a war for their democratic rights and very humanity on
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american soil, before the first troops even set foot on french soil. july 2, 1917, a massacre in east st. louis. hundreds of african americans, men, women, and children, brutally slaughtered. the naacp organized a silence-protest parade, some 10,000 african-americans, men, women, and children, marching down 5th avenue in new york city, protesting wilson, asking, why not make america safe for democracy? then there was houston, texas. on the night of august 24, 1917, after enduring weeks of racial abuse from racist, white citizens and police officers, a battalion of black soldiers of the 24th infantry, stationed at camp logan on the outskirts
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of the city, struck back. over 100 soldiers grabbed their guns, deserted camp, marched into downtown houston. for three hours, black soldiers ignited the streets of houston in a fury of gunfire. when the smoke cleared, two black soldiers and 15 white men lay dead, including four law enforcement officials. after the first of three court-martials, in which 110 men were found guilty of mutiny, officials hastily executed 13 soldiers, denying them opportunity to appeal. their judgment. a total of 19 black servicemen were ultimately hung, with 63 receiving life sentences in federal prison. african americans, including the naacp and ida b wells, vigorously protested this injustice. you can't really see here, but she waged a one-woman campaign to recognize the injustice, with soldiers,e houston
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with buttons that she distributed, paid for out of her own pocket, in memory of the martyred negro soldiers. houston was a critical moment, and on one hand represented the worst fears of white southerners come true. on the other hand, it revealed the capability of black soldiers to strike back against white supremacy. this, as the united states mobilized for war. the specter of armed self-defense punted debates about in what capacity to use african-american soldiers. questions swirled if african americans would be able to serve in the war, and, if so, in what capacity. the war department realized that it did not have the luxury of simply excluding african americans from service or severely complicating training procedures by restricting lack black soldiers from southern camps. they also realized they would face fears protests from civil rights groups, so despite
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opposition, the mobilization of enlistment of black soldiers proceeded with the passage of the selective service act in may 1917. but this did not that mean black servicemen would be treated equally. from the onset of the implementation of the draft, military officials and administrators of the selective service envisioned african americans serving almost exclusively as labor. approximately 80% of all black men in the wartime army served as labor troops. one official bluntly described them as "laborers in uniform." of the sum 200,000 african-american soldiers who served in france, approximately 140,000 labored in services of supply, laying railroad tracks, loading ships, burying dead bodies, all of the unglamorous work of the war. but not all black soldiers served in this capacity.
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the army established two black combat divisions -- the 92nd and the 93rd divisions. the 93rd division was mostly national guardsmen from new york, chicago, washington, d.c., and other areas. the 93rd saw combat duty in france, and this was primarily due to the fact it served with the french army, the only american division to actually be embedded with the french army, as the result of pershing and the u.s. military not knowing in what capacity to use this particular unit. as a result, soldiers of the 93rd division had a markedly different military and social experience than other american soldiers, both white and black. despite being essentially discarded by the u.s. military, the 93rd division was highly decorated and garnered widespread praise. wasmost well-known regiment the 69th regiment was famously
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, later known as the harlem health fighters, famously led by james reese in europe, and by the heroics of soldiers henry johnson and needham roberts, who 1918e night of may 14, repelled a german raiding party of some two dozen soldiers. it didn't look like that, as you could probably imagine. he actually had a bolo knife, , like, not a little penknife. it would become legendary. the battle of henry johnson would be etched into the collective memory of african americans. henry johnson would belatedly receive the medal of honor in 2015. the second black combat division, the 92nd division, was composed of draftees, borne out of political pressure from black the black press and black civil
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rights organization. and it also contained black officers. the war department established an officers training camp in des moines, iowa, which opened on june 15, 1917. over 600 cadets received officer commissions. 1200 african-american officers would ultimately be commissioned throughout the war. the 92nd was characterized later by dubois, in his words, as "the storm center," concerning their trying experience. they trained that separate facilities in the united states, preventing cohesiveness and collective identity. in france, white soldiers and officers spread rumors that the men in the division were threats rapists and threats to french women. black officers were attacked, constantly demeaned by their
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superiors and disrespected without regard to rank. the division's own white commanders labeled black officers as worthless, inefficient, untrustworthy, and cowardly. general robert lee bullard, named after that robert lee, commanded the 82nd army and wrote off the entire division is s a "misguided experiment." in his words, a "failure," "my memories of the 92nd negro division is a nightmare. if you need soldiers, especially in a hurry, don't put your time on negroes." a captain in the 92nd vision division accompanied his good friend w.e.b. dubois during his
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trip to the front in january of 1919. he remarked, reflecting on his battles with racism as a black officer in the army, that no nation on earth has ever hated a group as americans hate negroes. in spite of it all, black soldiers returned home as heroes. they were greeted by parades and festivities. this is the famous homecoming parade of the 369th in new york city. some massive like this, others small. they became part of the collective historical memory of black contribution to the war and the allied victory. but even celebrating their wartime service and sacrifice, african americans could not ignore the virulence of white supremacy and the racial discrimination endured by black soldiers, the hypocrisy of american democracy. and that is why african americans prepared for the next stage in their battle for racial justice, with black veterans on
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the front lines. as w.e.b. dubois penned in one of his most famous editorials, in may of 1919 in the "crisis," titled "returning soldiers," "we return from fighting, we return fighting. make way for democracy. we saved it in france and by the great jehovah, we will save it in the united states, or know the reason why." but dubois was not being literal. african americans did in fact return fighting. and it was by necessity, because many white racists were ready to fight as well. racial violence exploded throughout the country, much of it involving african-american veterans and white people resistant to any changes, real or perceived, in the status quo. in the south, the number of black people lynched skyrocketed. at least 11 returned black servicemen lost their lives to
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southern vigilante justice. race riots erupted in cities , large and small, the most explosive taking place in deland, arkansas, washington, d.c., and in chicago. 38 people died in the chicago race riot. black soldiers gave as good as they took. black people fought back, speaking to a new spirit of self-confidence inspired by the war. but the red summer, as characterized by james weldon johnson, left a deep scar on the psyches of many african americans and shapes their memories of the war as dashed expectations. as a black veteran of the 93rd division wrote in the letter after the chicago riots, "try to imagine the smoldering hatred within the breast of an overseas veteran who is set upon and mercilessly beaten by a gang of young hoodlums simply because he is colored."
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and this was the image taken during the chicago race riot, one of my favorite images. i just really love this kid here. i wish i knew what he was thinking. [laughter] many african americans translated this smoldering hatred and the raw memories of democracy denied into protest. organized protest. so let me briefly mention and discuss some of the various organizations and groups that african-american veterans joined and founded and participated in that speak to the important role they played in the new negro movement. as i mentioned at the onset of my talk, the black press was instrumental in the emergence of the new negro. arguably, no paper was more important in this regard than "the messenger." during and following the war, "the messenger" distinguished itself as the nation's leading radical african-american magazine and the self-proclaimed voice of the new negro.
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it's the publishers, a philip wen,olph and chandler o became active members of the socialist party in late 1916, and founded "the messenger" a year later. the end of the war coupled with the resurgence of white supremacy intensified "the messenger's" radicalism. randolph and owen welcomed the arrival of what they described as new crowd negroes, who, unlike preceding generations of bougois black leaders, pledged to wage a battle against working-class exploitation. they declared that the new crowd is uncompromising. its tactics are not defensive, but offensive. it will not send notes after a negro is lynched. it would not appear to white leaders. it would appeal to plain working people everywhere. the new crowd sees that war came, that the negro fought, bled, and died.
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that the war has ended and he is not yet free. victor daiy, a cornell -- victor daley, a cornell university graduate, alpha phi alpha fraternity member and former officer in the , 92nd division, served as business manager for the magazine in 1919 and 1920. commissioned as a first lieutenant at the des moines officers training camp, daly received honors, but despite this achievement, like other officers in the 92nd division, the pervasive discrimination soured him to america's professed democratic ideals and sharpened his racial and political consciousness. he wrote in an october 1919 letter, published in "the messenger," in response to the magazine being labeled as bolshevist, in promoting racial
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equality, solidarity, and our resistance to white violence made one a bolshevist, then classify me, too, a former officer, a former united states army officer, as a bolshevist. a second black veteran affiliated with "the messenger" he graduated from virginia union university along with chandler owen and graduated columbia university law school. colson knew victor daily and served in the 92nd division as well and was also an officer. he returned to the united states anxious to expose the discrimination that he and his fellow soldiers and officers division of the 92nd faced while overseas. beginning in july 1919, colson published a series of articles on the experiences of black soldiers during the war, essays such as a " propaganda and an analysis of negro patriotism.
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" and the failure of the 92nd division revealed to readers what black soldiers encountered and endured in france. his most powerful essay appeared in the december 1919 issue of "the messenger," under the title, " the immediate function veteran."ro " the returned negro veteran, " by virtue of his service and experience has a certain special function which he cannot fail to afford to press to the limit. he can do more to stop lynch law and discrimination in the united states than many americans want to see. he is accomplishing it by resolute demonstration of self-defense and they growing desire to lose his life in a
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good cause." colson encouraged black veterans to actively fight against white supremacy, and serve as inspirations for other black people to do the same. he continued, "it is therefore the function of the returned soldiers with their new appreciation of social values to appropriate the desire to either revolutionize or destroy every evil american institution which retards their progress. they must first of all continue their campaign of discontent and dissatisfaction. let them neither smile nor sleep until they have earned into the -- burned into the soul of every negro in the united states an unquenchable desire to tear down every barrier which stops there -- stops their onward march." he and other black veterans would be the vanguard of the new negro movement. and what about some of these other black veterans? shortly after the november 1918 armistice, a number of black officers of the 92nd division,
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may have been in fact some of these men here, held a series of secret meetings in lemans, france, to discuss the formation of a postwar organization to combat racial discrimination both in and outside of the military. military intelligence officials got wind of these conversations and became immediately concerned something was brewing and the results, they feared, could be terrifying. -- the vision of officers of the 92nd division announced themselves to the public at a 1919 meeting in harlem. they called their organization the league for democracy with the motto "lest we forget," the league for democracy sought to -- appealed to african-americans and sought to harness their political energies. as stated in the constitution, the league for democracy was an organization of soldiers for
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soldiers by soldiers with the goal to "keep alive the military spirit of the race." the primary mission of the leak -- league for democracy was to combat institutionalized racism, although the organization also had bigger objectives as well. they envisioned having camps in cities and towns throughout the country. a native of sumter, south carolina, served as the leading voice and organizing force behind the league for democracy. mccain began his military career with the 24th division of the regular army, serving in the philippines and mexico. upon the united states entering the world war, he joined 250 other enlisted regular army soldiers at the officers training camp where he received a commission as a first lieutenant. he was appalled at his treatment and committed to do something about it.
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he challenged negro leaders such as robert mouton, the president of the tuskegee institute, telling him to his face that the new element of the race would now elect its own representatives. he also inspired black veterans and the broader african american public to collective action. appearing in washington, d.c., just before a deadly race riot that erupted that summer, he told a capacity audience that "no negroes anywhere in the united states should ever let white mobs take a black man to lynch him without using all the force possible to prevent it. the only thing with which to meet force is force." despite its meteoric rise, the league for democracy faded from the scene by 1922, tried to accomplish too much, was also under heavy surveillance by the federal government. but black veterans found other organizations to join and contribute their unique skills and experience to.
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arguably none was more significant than the universal negro improvement association. the new negro of the post-war period is in many ways synonymous with the unia and its charismatic leader, marcus garvey. in remarkably short time, the unia emerged as the largest secular organization among peoples of african descent in the 20th century, with billions of members as well as supporters in countries throughout the diaspora. in promoting the unia, garvey consciously invoked the recent historical memory of black military service and experiences of black soldiers and the future leaders of the race. black people had fought in vain for democracy during the war. now it was time for black people to fight for themselves. additionally, black soldiers represented the new negro's willingness to fight back. in a january 1922 speech, garvey declared, the new negro likes a
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good fight. a fight, like the fight of needham roberts. and i want to say to them and to the white world that if they trifle with this universal negro improvement association they are going to get what they are looking for. in another speech the same month, he told a cheering audience, " i say this positively, the morale of the new negro cannot be broken. the morale of the negro american soldier in france. the morale of the negro african soldier in france was unbroken. and the morale of the soldiers of the bloody war of 1914 to 1918 is the morale of negroes throughout the world." a symbiotic relationship developed between black veterans while garvey
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actively solicited their participation and leadership. while black veterans responded i -- responded, joining the unia in significant numbers. " we are not depending on the statesmanship of w.e.b. dubois to lead this race of ours. but we are depending on the statesmanship of the new york illinois,"e eighth referring to the infantry regiment of the 93rd division, who fought their way in france. black veterans heeded garvey's call and served in a number of different capacities from key leaders to foot soldiers. probably most black veterans actually served in a wing of the unia called the african legions, the paramilitary wing, which allowed them to make direct use of their military training and leadership. garvey based the organization of the african legions on the drill formations of the united states army. the african legions allowed
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black veterans to transform their service for america into service for the race and the black nation. it afforded them the opportunity to remain connected to their discipline, racial camaraderie, and sense of manhood that many black servicemen valued during their experience in the war. with dreams of freedom, democracy, they supposedly fought and labored for during the war vivid in their minds, black veterans, whether it was the messenger or the unia, represented the advanced guard as a -- of a national and international movement to attack and challenge white supremacy. black soldiers stand at the core of the new negro movement. without centering and appreciating their experiences and significance, our understanding of this pivotal era in history will remain incomplete. at a time when we seem to be facing many of the same
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challenges that black people confronted nearly a century ago, let us remember that the struggle for democracy has never ceased, that the new negro has never died, and that black people have always and will continue to fight back. thank you for your time. [applause] >> as always, we are going to open up our q&a. there are microphones on either end. our first question is going to start back here in the auditorium with me. >> can you comment on the comparison between how the french interacted with american -- african-americans and their own west african troops?
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>> i think that's an important question. let me just disabuse you all of this myth of french colorblindness and racial egalitarianism. [laughter] yeah, the french had a race problem as well. that manifested itself in, certainly their treatment of their african colonial soldiers from west africa and north africa. the senegalese in particular. how they were used as shock troops on the front lines. but also exoticized. ways.e deeply problematic compared to their treatment of african-american soldiers, they saw african-americans as civilized. they saw them as potentially representing what their african colonials could become through the french civilizing mission. so, they saw african-american soldiers and african-americans more broadly in a very exoticized, romanticized way.
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fetishized their blackness in particular ways, especially as it related to cultural production like jazz, the introduction of jazz by black soldiers and their military bands. they were -- part of understanding the complexities of that question is understanding how african-american soldiers were treated by their fellow american soldiers, by white americans, and the idea that the french were better than the white americans who were treating them just so horrendously. certainly not to say that the french were colorblind, but in comparison to how the vast majority of white soldiers and officers treated african-american soldiers in france, they certainly treated them with a level of openness and respect. they were also happy to have
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just some fresh bodies. [laughter] by that time, they were tapped out, so they were looking for help and support wherever they could get it from. thank you for that question. >> thanks for a very interesting talk. it was great. i was wondering whether w.e.b. dubois or any african-american representatives were present in paris and if so what role they played their. -- played there. >> dubois was present in paris. he spent three months in paris. he was determined to get overseas to get a passport when other african-american leaders such as william monroe trotter and ida b. wells were being denied passports. he traveled on the official press ship which was accompanying wilson to france, so he was determined to represent african-americans, but also the black world more broadly at the peace conference. he was able to secure meetings with some american officials.
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i think colonel house. obviously he never met with woodrow wilson. he didn't actually attend the versailles proceedings, but envisioned the pan-african congress that he organized as a shadow congress, if you will. to make it clear that the representatives at versailles needed to take seriously the concerns of people of african descent especially as it related to germany's colonial territories and how they would be reappropriated, but also ensuring that the rights of african-american people in the former german territories would be respected. >> my question refers back to two questions ago. it is the relationship with the french troops. here in the museum, we have on display an artifact called the red hand insignia that members of the 93rd division got to wear, which was actually a french shoulder patch.
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could you shed additional light on, was that a common practice to allow african-american troops to wear such insignia? as i understand it, i believe, they were required to take that off as they mustered out of war. dr. williams: the 93rd was a provisional division composed of national guardsmen. predominantly had one regiment composed of soldiers from south carolina. pershing, he promised the french a division of american soldiers if and when the united states entered the war and conveniently not knowing what to do with all these black national guardsmen, decided to give them over to the french. the french happily accepted. so they took on all of the necessities of serving with the french in terms of gear, weaponry, also insignia. pershing at the end of the war,
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seeing how well they had performed, wanted to get them back in the american expeditionary forces. many of the commanders of those regiments in the 93rd were very hesitant to do that. eventually they had to return back to the united states, which really kind of speaks to their complicated relationship with the american army in particular. but just with the entire war effort, more broadly. >> our next question comes from the other side of the auditorium. >> i was wondering if you could speak to the connection between the new negro movement and the black power movement in the 60's and 70's? and maybe if there was any connection between black soldiers' experiences in vietnam and how that might have connected or related to black
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soldiers' experiences in world war i? dr. williams: sure. i think you can definitely see a historical continuum. again, on the one hand, we can think of the new negro as a trope, as a symbolic representation of generational change, renewed commitment to black equality. even tracing it all the way back to the post-civil war era. turn of the century. i think we see this new negro ethos, if you will, coming in waves and certainly the connections between the post-world war i period and the black power movement of the 1960's are very clear in terms of the meaning of blackness, embracing a more positive, a more militant form of blackness. also the creation of distinct organizations to channel and harness that type of radical energy. also in terms of cultural
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production as well. thinking back to edward holston's painting, the cultural representations that were a key part of the new negro movement. we see that in the context of the black arts movement of the 1960's as well. the second part of your question, certainly i think there is a much larger story to tell about the place of black veterans in the long history of civil rights movement, the black freedom struggle. black veterans during vietnam, who served in vietnam starting to play an active role in the civil rights movement, but also in particular organizations like the black panther party. so, those parallels are definitely there. >> great talk. my question is about the editors of "the messenger." if they were thinking along socialist lines, did they make
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an outreach or collaborate with the editors of socialist, or bolshevik or anarchist or communist press in europe? did they outreach? there were other leftist magazines and journals in the united states, of course there were in europe. did they make an outreach in that direction? dr. williams: i wouldn't say so much in europe, but certainly within the united states. we are talking about a relatively small but nevertheless dynamic radical community in new york city, specifically. all these folks knew each other. they are always hanging out and arguing, and fighting, and getting into all types of ideological and political disagreements. you see the fissures between the socialist party on one hand and the communist party emerging
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post-1919 in the context of the united states specifically. "the messenger" at one point was very supportive of marcus garvey. eventually they have a falling out. it speaks to the ideological diversity that existed within the new negro movement. while, on the one hand there is this common cause that black people are striving for, but certainly going about it in different ways, which i think is important to keep in mind, even today. that black political organization and activism has always taken many different forms and that not all black folks think alike. >> there is time for two questions, particularly if those two questions and two answers are quick. >> this might be quick. we are talking about army-centric experiences here. what about the other services in the united states? particularly the united states navy.
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i have never heard of any officers in the navy who were african-american. dr. williams: because there weren't any. that's quick. you can help me out with that. >> the second part is, general john black jack pershing had a lot of experiences with african-americans during the spanish-american war. did that have anything to do with how he thought of them? he knew the value then. how did that change for him in world war i? dr. williams: regarding african-americans in the navy, served in exclusively menial capacities as messmen. didn't have the opportunity to serve as officers. pershing is complicated. because on the one hand, as you said, he commanded black soldiers in the regular army. in the spanish american war, most recently in mexico. his nickname was n-word jack, so
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his relationship with black soldiers was kind of vexed. as was his relationship with other commanding white officers. i think he was very attentive to placating the racist attitudes and customs of the military and not upsetting the status quo. so, while he knew firsthand that black soldiers could be effective combatants, could be effective officers, charles young for example served with pershing. pershing was at one point eager to have him on his staff and that didn't happen. the army and woodrow wilson made sure that charles young didn't become a general. and pershing didn't intervene. he had an opportunity to take a much more definitive stand in protecting black officers and their reputations. he chose not to do that.
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which i think was really kind of a stain on his leadership. >> great talk. the japanese proposed a racial equality clause as part of the covenant at the league of nations. largely because, as i understand it, wilson's opposition, it was rejected. was this supported by black american leaders or was this strictly a japanese initiative? dr. williams: that's a good question. you begin to see a growing relationship between african-americans and japan. even going back to the japanese-russo war and this idea of japan as kind of part of a darker world. an emerging world of nations
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, which is going to challenge europe and european supremacy. so, there was certainly african-american support for that racial equality clause and certainly during the interwar period, you see how that relationship evolves in different ways. >> ladies and gentlemen, will you please join me in thanking dr. chad williams. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> you are watching american history tv, covering history c-span style with lectures in college classrooms and visits to museums and historic places all weekend every weekend on c-span
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three. seven years ago on june 25, 1950. it ended with an armistice agreement in 1953. next, an interview with john jeffries recorded in 2014 by the korean war legacy foundation. we hear about his experiences providing medical treatment for north korean pows. your the project was underwritten by south korea's ministry of patriots and veterans affairs.


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