How did the treatment of minorities during World War I help them?
During World War I, the majority of soldiers on the front were white. The 369th Infantry Regiment (also known as the Harlem Hellfighters) was created in 1913 and gained its fame because it was the first entirely African-American Regiment during the war. This was an opportunity for blacks to finally gain respect from their white neighbors to try and lessen segregation in the United States [War History Online].
The respect African-Americans wanted from the war was to gain a sense of loyalty from whites. Many soldiers that participated in the war believed that it would give whites a sense of patriotism and worthiness towards African-Americans. During the war, African-Americans who were infantry personnel did not see the front, but instead stayed in the bases.
African-Americans expected to gain respect from whites from their participation as soldiers in World War I but it didn’t occur.
After the Civil War, the government disbanded all colored regiments and made requirements that they had to be controlled by a white officer because the Army could not rely on blacks. Most African-Americans during the beginning of World War I wanted to serve in the war but were denied because of their race. They found that their service would prove their loyalty to whites. During the draft, policies changed and more blacks started to apply to join the Army, i.e., thirty percent of the troops were black, while they only comprised ten percent of the population in the States. It was very common in the south for known blacks who wanted to serve would have their registration cards withdrawn intentionally and later be arrested for dodging the draft [War History Online]. In the war, blacks became known as heroes in their communities, many African-American soldiers proved their worthiness on the front, such as Private Henry Lincoln Johnson and Private Needham Roberts who were among the first Americans to receive the French medal of honor, le Croix de Guerre, i.e. cross of war.
After the war, many African-Americans who returned to their hometowns expecting to get more respect and equal treatment from whites, but they did not. Instead, they experienced more racism. Jim Crow laws were still in place, which made it so blacks had to attend different schools than whites, ride in the back of buses (in the colored section), and drink from different water fountains. The country clubs whites were members of did not accept black members regardless if they could afford it or not. All the skills African-Americans had learned during the service didn’t help them find any jobs because most only offered employment to whites or they would be paid a fraction of the wages whites would make for the same labor. Lynching prevailed in the south, causing blacks to feel oppressed by white Americans. African-Americans couldn’t understand how their former comrades could treat them in such a way after helping them win the war.
· "African-American Soldiers in World War I." EDSITEment. Web. 12 Oct. 2010. <http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=497>.
· Bryan, Jami. "Fighting for Respect: African-American Soldiers in WWI." Military History Online. 2003. Web. 12 Oct. 2010. <http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/wwi/articles/fightingforrespect.aspx>.
· Mikkelsen, Edward. "369th Infantry Regiment." The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. Web. 12 Oct. 2010. <http://www.blackpast.org/?q=aah/369th-infantry-regiment-harlem-hellfighters>.
· "Photographs of the 369th Infantry and African-Americans during World War I." National Archives and Records Administration. Web. 12 Oct. 2010. <http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/369th-infantry/>.
· "World War I and Postwar Society." African American Odyssey. 21 Aug. 2007. Web. 12 Oct. 2010. <http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aopart7.html>.