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Racism, Black Soldiers, and the Medal of Honor

By Kevin M. Bair

Professor Furgol

Johns Hopkins University

AS.450.654.81 and 82

“When the lamps went out”: World War One as history, memory and commemoration

December 14, 2018

Introduction

The intent of this paper is to examine why black soldiers did not earn the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor during World War One (WW I). Black soldiers, despite centuries of subjugation fought courageously for America during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), Civil War (1861-1865), Indian Wars (1849-1923), Spanish American War (1898), and World War One (1914-1918). Some of these soldiers went above and beyond the call of duty, displaying exceptional valor to save fallen comrades or the fallen American flag, i.e., “the colors”. Their exceptional heroism earned some of them the nation’s highest military honor. Black soldiers in these conflicts earned sixty-nine Medals of Honor: twenty-five in the Civil War, eighteen in the Indian Wars, and twenty-six during the Spanish American War[1], yet none were awarded to blacks for their valor in WW I.

Additionally, this paper asks if the Jim Crow Laws (1877-1960’s) and the Supreme Court ruling, Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896), could have negatively influenced top military commanders’ opinions of gallant World War I black soldiers. Additionally, did the 1915 motion picture The Birth of a Nation by D. W. Griffin; based on the fictional post-Civil War white supremacist trilogy, The Leopard’s Spots (1902), The Clansman (1905), The Traitor (1907), by Thomas Dixon Jr. (1864-1946), also bias the Medals committee against black soldiers.

African Americans in the Revolutionary War

(1775-1781)

Although the Medal of Honor did not exist until 1862, I feel it is important to start this discussion with a brief look at courageous black soldiers in the American Revolution. According to Michael Lanning in his book, African Americans in the Revolutionary War, the rebel colonists were desperate for additional manpower to fight the British. At the time of the Revolution, the 13 colonies were home to approximately two million whites, and about 500,000 African blacks; most were slaves.[2] Prior to the Revolutionary war, the colonies used black men to help them defend the villages from the indigenous population by enlisting then into the local militias.[3]

In the war, blacks fought for both America and the British; their goal being freedom. To help fill his ranks, Lord Dunmore the British colonial governor of Virginia, proclaimed on 7 November 1775, that any escaped slaves who reach the British lines were promised their freedom and liberty after serving in the British army.[4]

This promise of freedom worked, as “several thousand fled to Dunmore”.[5] Once Dunmore had his black recruits, he formed the British Ethiopian Regiment. He then had some of his new regiment go into battle wearing a sash with the phrase, “Liberty to Slaves” inscribed on it (figure 1).[6] According to an American who faced the black regiment at Great Bridge, south of Norfolk, “The Ethiopian Regiment fought with the intrepidity of lions”.[7]

Figure 1. Renactment of the Ethiopian Regimen

1778 Rhode Island General Assembly

George Washington, in response to Lord Dunmore’s proclamation, was concerned many slaves would run towards freedom and aid the British. Washington, aided by Brigadier-General Varnum, in conjunction with the February 14, 1778 agreement from the Rhode Island General Assembly, created two battalions of slaves willing to fight. The General Assembly stated,

“that every able-bodied Negro, Mulatto, or Indian Man Slave, in this State, may enlist into either of the said two Battalions to serve during the Continuance of the present War with Great-Britain: That every Slave, so enlisting, shall be entitled to, and receive, all the Bounties, Wages, and Encouragements, allowed by the Continental Congress, to any Soldier enlisting into their Service”.[8]

These battalions became known as the First Rhode Island Regiment (Figure 2). Additionally, in March 1779, the Continental Congress stated,

“every negro who shall well and faithfully serve as a soldier to the end of the present war, and shall then return his arms, be emancipated and receive the sum of fifty dollars”.[9]

Figure 2. Reenactment of the First Rhode Island Regiment

Black soldiers were heroic and risked their lives in many ways during the revolutionary war. One such man was James Armistead, a slave of William Armistead of Virginia. According to Edward G. Gray in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution, James Armistead became a spy for commander General Lafayette of the Continental Army. As part of his duties, Armistead managed to become a servant to British General Lord Cornwallis, and through his position he managed to gain insight into Cornwallis battle plans. He then would slip away to give Lafayette this crucial information. Armistead’s inside information helped Lafayette and the Continental Army win the 1781 Battle of Yorktown Virginia, against Cornwallis and his army. This victory prompted the British government to end the war. James Armistead returned to slavery after the war and was eventually emancipated in 1786; after Lafayette wrote the Virginia Legislator on Armistead’s behalf, and his Master was compensated for his freedom.[10]

The America Civil War (1861-1865)

Birth of the Medal of Honor

During the early years of the Civil War, the U.S. Navy wanted to officially recognize distinct acts of heroism with a campaign decoration. President Lincoln agreed, and on 21 December 1861, he signed Public Resolution 82 creating the Naval Medal of Valor. Then on 12 July 1862, Lincoln approved the War Department’s desire for their own Army Medal of Valor. Soon afterwards Congress combined and renamed these medals to simply the Medal of Honor.[11] Medals were not enough to win the war though, President Lincoln needed men.

By the second year of the war, Lincoln realized the Union Army needed more soldiers to win. In January 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the states that had seceded from the Union. For this proclamation to remain effective, the Union Army needed to win the war. Lincoln’s proclamation gave hope to millions of enslaved blacks and provided a way for Lincoln to increase the size of his Army and Navy. The United States Government could now enlist the once enslaved black men into men fighting for their freedom.[12]

In 1863, President Lincoln, in a letter to friend and fellow lawyer, James C. Conkling, gave insight into his thoughts on using blacks for the war effort.

“Negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive, even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept… there will be some black men who can remember that with silent tongue and clenched teeth, and steady eye and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while I fear there will lie some white ones unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they have strove to hinder it”.[13]

Freedom is a powerful motivator and I believe Fredrick Douglas best described black men’s desire and need to fight in the war,

“Never since the world began was there a better chance offered to a long enslaved and oppressed people. The opportunity is given us to be men. With one courageous resolution, we may blot out the handwriting of ages against us. Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U. S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket; and there is no power on the earth, or under the earth, which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States”.[14]

To aid in recruiting blacks, the war department created recruitment posters such as in figure 3. The images within the recruitment poster showing well-dressed black men, clean, wearing shoes, holding guns, standing under the American flag, led by a gentle looking white officer, must have played heavily on the emotions of newly emancipated slaves or those still enslaved who might have seen such a poster. Posters such as this would have inspired slaves to run away from their masters and join the Union Army.

Figure 3 US Colored Troops recruiting poster was published by the Philadelphia Supervisory Committee

Blacks during the war repeatedly proved their fighting capabilities. The black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, became famous for its fighting ability. On 18 July 1863, the regiment was ordered to attack Fort Wagner, on Morris Island in Charleston, South Carolina. It was noted in several newspapers that the 54th Regiment fighting from the beach and scrub grass fought valiantly against the fort protected Confederate force. The battle consumed at least half of the 54th men. According to the 1863 Wisconsin paper, the Semi-Weekly Wisconsin,

Figure 4. Sgt. Carney

“The 54th Massachusetts (negro), whom copperhead officers would have called cowardly if they had stormed and carried the gates of hell, went boldly into battle, for the second time, commanded by their brave Colonel, but came out of it led by no higher officer than the boy, Lieut. Higginson”.[15]

During the Battle of Fort Wagner, Sgt. William H. Carney (figure 4) of the 54th, a man born into slavery in 1840, saw under heavy enemy fire the company’s flag bearer shot dead. He courageously risked his life to retrieve the colors. For this action, Carney earned the Medal of Honor. [16]The heroic actions displayed by the 54th convinced many Northern leaders that black men could be good soldiers.[17]

In 1864, George W. Hatton, a former slave, became a Sergeant in Company C of the First Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. Hatton expressed his sentiment for the country when he stated,

“Though the Government openly declared that it did not want the negroes in this conflict, I look around me and see hundreds of colored men armed and ready to defend the Government at any moment; and such are my feelings, that I can only say, the fetters have fallen — our bondage is over”.[18]

Blacks empowered with the chance of freedom fought fiercely, and Sargent Major Christian Abraham Fleetwood (1840-1914) (figure 5), was no exception. Fleetwood, a free black from Baltimore, Maryland, performed heroically at the Battle of New Market Heights, outside of Richmond, Virginia, on 29 September 1864. Excerpts from Fleetwood’s diary describe his thoughts on the battle,

Figure 5. Sgt. Major Christian A. Fleetwood, 4th U.S. Colored Troops, Medal of Honor Recipient

“THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1864, Coffee boiled and, line formed. Moved out & on Charged with the 6th at daylight and got used up. Saved colors”.[19]

The words “Saved colors” are modest ones from the man who performed the act. As the Battle of New Market Heights raged on, the US Colored Troop flag bearers were shot and killed. Fleetwood in his book The Negro as a Soldier, recalls he heard flag bearer Sergeant Hilton cry out as he went down, “Boys, save the colors”.[20] At this point, Fleetwood grabbed the colors before they fell on the ground, held the flag high, rallied the troops, and charged through the confederate line. Additionally, he states, “out of a color guard of twelve men …[only] one came off the field on his own feet”. [21]

Fleetwood’s commanding officer Maj. General B. F. Butler made this comment about the battle.

“In the charge on the enemy’s works by the colored division of the 18th Corps at New Market … The colored soldiers, by coolness, steadiness, determined courage and dash, have silenced every cavil of the doubters of their soldierly capacity, and drawn tokens of admiration from their enemies, have brought their late masters even to the consideration of the question whether they will not employ as soldiers the hitherto despised race”.[22]

Fleetwood, like Carney, received the Medal of Honor for bravery. More than 178,000 black men served in the Union army[23] with 25 blacks earning the Medal of Honor. [24]

Indian Wars (1849-1923)

Buffalo Soldiers

Black soldiers fought against the Indians in various battles on the Western frontier. Some of the wars were The Apache Wars (1877-1881) and the Ute Wars (1849-1923). Black soldiers were used to protect the growing number of settlers moving West after the Civil War from, “desperadoes, swindlers, and assorted bad men”.[25]

Figure 6. Buffalo Soldiers in 1889 at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

According to Captain Francis S. Dodge, during the Ute War when the Buffalo Soldiers (figure 6) arrived to aid an embattled white troop, the “white troops cheered wildly”.[26] Yet, out on the frontier, the uniformed blacks could not escape racial humiliation. As Dodge recorded several weeks later in his diary, “[during the battle] several Ute warriors called out at once: ‘To-Maricat’z! The black – whitemen! The Buffalo Soldiers!’” The Ute warriors created a song about the Buffalo Soldiers as they understood the racial hierarchy of the blacks to the whites:

“Soldiers with the black face

You ride into battle behind the white soldier;

But you can’t take off your black face,

And the white-faced soldiers make you ride behind them”.[27]

Despite experiencing racial problems during the various frontier wars, the blacks performed exceptionally well. The Buffalo’s Corporal Isaiah Mays (1858-1925) B Troop 24th Infantry, and Sergeant Benjamin Brown (1859-1910) C Troop 9th Cavalry, were awarded the Medal of Honor for valor. In 1898, as payroll escorts, these men, along with ten other infantrymen, defended the payroll wagon containing $28,000 in gold from being robbed. Eight other men were awarded Certificates of Honor.[28]

According to Major Joseph W. Wham, May’s and Brown’s commander, who had delivered the payroll for twelve years, and fought in 16 battles himself as an enlisted Union soldier, stated, “[I have] never witnessed better courage or better fighting than shown by these colored soldiers, on May 11th, 1889”.[29]

During the Indian Wars, a total of eighteen Buffalo Soldiers earned the Medal of Honor for their deeds of bravery.[30]

By 1896, the Indian Wars were winding down and the Spanish American War was still two years away waiting for the February 15, 1898 explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana’s harbor. In 1896, another war was being fought and this time it was in the United States Supreme court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson, separate but equal, dividing whites from the blacks in all public spaces.[31] This law would have a profound effect on the nation and the military for years to come. It remained in effect until being overturned in 1954, when the Brown v. Board of Education case ended segregation in public education.[32]

Buffalo Soldier

Spanish American War

(‎April 21, 1898 – August 13, 1898)

Through action of valor in the Spanish American war, five Buffalos of the Tenth Cavalry earned the Metal of Honor. Sergeant Major Edward L. Baker Jr. (1865-1913), Private Dennis Bell (1866-1953), Private Fitz Lee (1866-1899), Private William H. Thompkins (1872-1916), Private George Henry Wanton (1868-1940).[33]

Bell, Lee, Thompkins and Wanton received their medals of bravery in the Battle of Tayacoba for repeatedly rescuing fallen comrades who were trapped on a beach. Sergeant Major Edward L. Baker Jr earned his for rescuing Private Lewis Marshall of C Troop.

Baker saw from a distance that Marshall was face down in waist deep water struggling for his life. Baker, against the better judgement of comrades, made his way through the thick brush and rescued Marshall. Baker later recalled in his diary, “[Shells] passed so close as to cause me to feel the heat”.[34] He dragged Marshall to safety then ran for a surgeon. Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin remarked about Baker’s actions, “[He] displayed a bravery and fearlessness that was wonderful …there is no man more worthy of the medal…I do not hesitate to recommend him for one”.[35]

During the July 1898 battles of San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill, blacks and whites fought side by side while enduring the blistering heat and driving rain. They shared food and drink as well as peril and discomfort. “They forged a victory that …. belonged to all of them”.[36] One example of the black soldiers’ courage was seen in 1898 Harper’s Weekly vol.42. with an illustration of Captain Taylor of Troop C, 9th Cavalry and his fellow black soldiers storming San Juan Hill (figure 7).

Figure 7 Captain Taylor of Troop C, 9th Cavalry, leading the charge at San Juan, July 1, 1898 by Fletcher C. Ransom

According to Dr. Frank Schubert, historian in the Joint History Office, Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington D.C., “Black newspapers and magazines tracked their [black soldier’s] movements and reported their activities. Poetry, dramas, and songs all celebrated their service and valor.[37] Schubert also noted,

“15,000 American troops of Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter’s Fifth Army Corps participated in the battles on the high ground near Santiago, Cuba, on 1 July 1898. About 13,000 of them were white; 2,000 or so were black…More than 200 soldiers were killed in action, and nearly 30 of those who fell were from the four black Regular Army regiments, the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry”.[38]

There was a total of 280,564 sailors, soldiers, and marines who served during the war. Out of those, 2,061 died from other causes.[39]

Unlike the segregated Army, Navy ships integrated their soldiers. Sailors from many nationalities served together, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, all served alongside the whites and blacks. [40]Many blacks had personal reasons to join and fight in Cuba. When the U.S.S. Maine exploded in February 1898, of the 260 men killed, 22 were black sailors.[41] The Navy, out of necessity, started to integrate sailors during the Revolutionary War, and “Unlike the Continental Army, the Navy recruited both free and enslaved blacks from the very start of the Revolutionary War — partly out of desperation for seamen of any color”. [42]

According to Corporal W.T. Goode, Company T, Eighth Illinois Volunteer Regiment, army life during the Cuba crisis was not easy for the black troops, as Southern white officers and black soldiers did not work well together. Goode explains in his book Eighth Illinois,

“The Ninth Louisiana (colonels, majors and captains white), before they were on the island two months, had nine commissioned officers resign. Cause, brutal treatment — prejudicial and domineering — from their superior and selfish southern white officers… in the southern white officer’s eye the man who did the most grinning was the best newsmonger and could dance the best or make the best monkeyshines, was the best Negro soldier”.[43]

Rev. H. C. C. Astwood of Philadelphia said,

“The Ninth Louisiana, colored volunteers, one of the best set of men in Cuba, have been rendered useless by inefficient and prejudicial white officers… Colored soldiers with white southern officers are a failure, and the men who endure it are fools, slaves and cowards. Colored troops should be officered by competent colored men or refuse service”.[44]

A total of 26 Medals of Honor were awarded to blacks during the Spanish American war,[45] and 76 were awarded to whites [46].

World War One (1914-1918),

Heroic blacks, Non-Medal of Honor

In August 1914, many mobilized British soldiers hoped, “they would be back home soon: before the leaves fell as winter set in, and certainly in time for Christmas”.[47] As Americans celebrated and welcomed New Year’s 1915, the Europeans were fighting and dying in the trenches. The war was causing massive destruction, consuming men and resources in a scale unseen in prior wars. America remained on the sidelines steeped in her conviction the war was not her fight. As the war dragged on, the European soldiers realized they would not be home before the leaves fell. By April 1917, America was forced to change her mind, and rolled out the dogs of war to engage the demons of Democracy. President Wilson, in his address to Congress on April 2nd, persuaded Congress to support the war with his emotionally charged declaration, “The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty… We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind”.[48]

As American soldiers readied and marched off to war, the American people roared with pride and supported their men in uniform (figure 8). America was in a frenzy of national pride. American men were ready to fight; to do their part in defending Lady Liberty. At the start of the war, black men were denied enlistment until 18 May 1917, when Congress passed the Selective Service Act, requiring all male citizens between the ages of 21 and 31 to register for the draft, yet once enlisted blacks were maintained in segregated unites and not allowed combated roles until 10 March 1918.[49].

Figure 8. American soldiers embark for the

front in France

The 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy vs. Fergusonseparate but equal law became the foundation for national legal segregation laws. This law when combined with existing regional segregation laws were known as Jim Crow laws (1877-1960’s). These amplified whites’ preexisting beliefs that blacks were inferior.

According to Professor David Pilgrim at the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University,

“Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws. It was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to the status of second class citizens. Jim Crow represented the legitimization of anti-black racism. Many Christian ministers and theologians taught that whites were the Chosen people, blacks were cursed to be servants, and God supported racial segregation. Craniologists, eugenicists, phrenologists, and Social Darwinists, at every educational level, buttressed the belief that blacks were innately intellectually and culturally inferior to whites”.[50]

Blacks were legally excluded from all activities enjoyed by whites in public spaces; this was especially true in the southern states. After the Civil War, the southern states who depended on slavery lost the right to enslave blacks. This loss of an enslaved workforce ruined the southern economy embittering many southern whites. Southern Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, whom later became the President of the Confederacy, believed that “southern prosperity rested on the productivity of the southern slave-based economy and the northern capacity to utilize many of the South’s products in manufacturing and commerce”[51], and on January 21, 1861, during his last speech to his fellow senators, Davis reminded them that any equality provided by Lincoln for the enslaved blacks would upset the political economy and “emancipation would be the sinking millstone around the neck of southern prosperity and northern well-being”.[52]

Dr. P. Scott Corbett, Professor of History Ventura College, states, “By the mid-nineteenth century, southern commercial centers like New Orleans had become home to the greatest concentration of wealth in the United States … slavery shaped the culture and society of the South, which rested on a racial ideology of white supremacy and a vision of the United States as a white man’s republic”.[53] This long standing and ingrained belief in the South’s racial right to enslave blacks did not simply fade away after the Civil War. After the war, racial hatred sprung up due to white supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and the advent of major motion pictures such as the movie The Birth of a Nation (figure 9) by D. W. Griffith. This movie, shown nationwide, glamorized the KKK and the South’s right to terrorize the blacks back into submission.

Figure 9. The Birth of a Nation Theatrical

release poster

Griffith based his movies on Thomas Dixon’s books, with a particular focus on Dixon’s book The Clansmen (1905). Both medias prompted and supported white supremacy. Figure 10 is and a promotional ad for the film from the December 05, 1915 newspaper The Atlanta Constitution. Figure 11, play button is a link to a film clip of The Birth of a Nation, using figure 10 as a cover photo cover for the clip.

Figure 10. The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 05, 1915

Figure 11. Film clip from The Birth of a Nation (click play icon)

https://youtu.be/sdmHVrD5ePY

Furthermore, Kenneth T Jackson, suggests in his book, The Ku Klux Klan in the city, 1915-1930, “The Birth of a Nation was ultimately viewed by more than fifty million people and had a vast influence in the shaping of popular misconceptions about the critical Reconstruction period of American history”.[54] Additionally, it is reported after the film opening in Georgia that it spurred a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. On October 26th, 1915, William J Simmons, applied to the State of Georgia to open a fraternal order of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. In November, his request was permitted. Simmons told his new members, “he planned to revive the ancient glories” [55] of the Klan by lighting a fiery cross on Stone Mountain.

After the Civil War, the KKK became a national threat to the country’s democracy. In 1870, and 1871, Congress passed the Enforcement Acts to end such violence and allow the president to protect African Americans with military force if need be. During this time, the Senate passed the Force Acts, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Acts. These were created to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.[56] These legal measures took their toll on the Klan. According to Robert Gibson, in his book, The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950, “After 1892, lynching’s declined quite steadily until about 1905, when there were sixty-two”.[57]

Data from 1915-1922 shows a steady rate of lynching’s against blacks though. In 1915, ninety-nine blacks were lynched, fifty-four in 1917, sixty-seven in 1918, eighty-three in 1919, sixty-five in 1920, sixty-four in 1921, and sixty-one in 1922.[58] This information suggests that after Dixon’s books were published and The Birth of a Nation was released, the country’s whites regressed in their acceptance of blacks as equal citizens.

By 1915, American black men had a long history of serving the country as soldiers. From 1907-1909, the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, while deployed to the Philippians, were the first American troops to use and perfect the use of the machine gun. They were known as The Machine Gun Troop.[59] In 1915, the Buffalo Soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry, from Fort Robinson Texas, under the command of General John J. Pershing were part of Pershing’s Punitive Expedition force. The Buffalos were ordered to ride into Mexico (figure 10) and capture Pancho Villa.[60] By April 1918, when President Wilson announced a declaration of war, the black soldier was a proven warrior earning a total of 69 Metals of Honor in the previous conflicts.

Figure 12 Troop I, 10th Cavalry out of Fort Robinson circa 1904

Despite years of prejudice and aggression from whites, black males were eager to fight in World War One, seeking to win honor and glory in battles like their predecessors, the Buffalo Soldiers. To many black men, military service, even with its racial obstacles, offered them a better chance to be a “man” than life as a black man living in the South.

During World War I, more than 350,000 blacks served in segregated units. Of these 350,000, 171 were awarded the French Legion of Honor.[61] Of the heroes honored by the French government, two American black soldiers, Private Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts (figure 11) from Company C, of the 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, American Expeditionary Forces, were the first Americans awarded the French Croix de Guerre medal for bravery.[62]

Figure 13 William Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts standing with their French Croix de Guerre medals in 1918

The courage displayed by these men on the night of May 14, 1918, in the Argonne Forest was exemplary. While on night patrol, the men fought off twenty or more Germans who tried to capture them. In the process, they killed four and wounded twenty-two[63]. Their actions made them heroes and improved the image of the black soldiers thus challenging the racial thinking of bigoted Americans.[64]

The following excerpt is from a letter by Colonel Hayward, Commander 369th United States Infantry, to Private Johnson’s wife:

“Your husband, Pvt. Henry Johnson, … He has been at all times a good soldier and a good boy of fine morale and upright character. To these admirable traits he has lately added the most convincing numbers of fine courage and fighting ability…

“He and Pvt. Needham Roberts were on guard together at a small outpost on the front line trench near the German lines and during the night a strong raiding party of Germans, numbering from twelve to twenty … made a surprise attack in the dead of the night on our two brave soldiers…

“We had learned some time ago from captured German prisoners that the Germans had heard of the regiment of Black Americans in this sector, and the German officers had told their men how easy to combat and capture them it would be. So this raiding party came over…

“At the beginning of the attack the Germans fired a volley of bullets and grenades and both of the boys were wounded, your husband three times and Roberts twice,

“The boys inflicted great loss on the enemy, but Roberts was overpowered and about to be carried away when your husband, who had used up all of the cartridges in the magazine of his rifle and had knocked one German down with the butt end of it, drew his bolo from his belt…. He rushed to the rescue of his former comrade, and fighting desperately, opened with his bolo the head of the German who was throttling Roberts, and turned to the boche who had Roberts by the feet, plunging the bolo into the German’s bowels…

“Henry laid about him right and left with his heavy knife, and Roberts, released from the grasp of the scoundrels, began again to throw hand grenades and exploded them in their midst, and the Germans, doubtless thinking it was a host instead of two brave colored boys fighting like tigers at bay, picked up their dead and wounded and slunk away, leaving many weapons and part of their shot-riddled clothing, and leaving a trail of blood, which we followed at dawn near to their lines…. “So it was in this way the Germans found the Black Americans.
“Both boys… will receive the Croix de Guerre (cross of war)”.[65]

Below is a translation of the French award citation:

“First—Johnson, Henry (13349), private in Co. C, being on double sentry duty during the night and having been assaulted by a group composed of at least one dozen Germans, shot and disabled one of them and grievously wounded two others with his bolo, in spite of three wounds with pistol bullets and grenades at the beginning of the fight; this man ran to the assistance of his wounded comrade who was about to be carried away prisoner by the enemy, and continued to fight up to the retreat of the Germans. He has given a beautiful example of courage and activity.

“Second—Roberts, Needham (13369), private in Co. C, being on double sentry duty during the night was assaulted and grievously wounded in his leg by a group of Germans continuing fighting by throwing grenades, although he was prone on the ground, up to the retreat of the enemy. Good and brave soldier.[66]

Once the newspapers started spreading the story about these black soldiers defeating so many Germans, they became famous. Figure 12 is from The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) 15 February, 1919, and the article quoted below is from the 25 July, 1919 North Carolina newspaper, The Wilmington Morning Star:

Figure 14. Headline from The News Journal

Hero of Big Fight With Huns … Henry Johnson, colored soldier in a New York regiment, who, with another negro, Needham Roberts whipped a patrol of twenty Germans, killing and wounding several, which exploit was duly chronicled in the press dispatches at the time, “If any one doubts the fighting ability of the colored man, or the part that he is taking in this war, we invite them to read the article below, which gives a startling account of a desperate engagement, in the dead hours of the night, between two brave colored boys, Private Henry Johnson, of this city, and a comrade by the name of Needham Roberts, and a party of about twenty Germans, who made a surprise attack on the colored boys, and although outnumbered ten to one, they outfought the whole bunch, killing several, wounding several and completely routing the balance that were glad enough to get away”.[67]

When Johnson and his unit, the 369th, returned home on 17 February 1919, Johnson led a welcome home parade down New York City’s 5th Avenue to Harlem (figure 15).

Figure 15 Welcoming- a Victorious Hero. Henry Johnson, the First American of any race to receive the Croix de Guerre, being carried in triumph up Fifth Avenue on his return

Figure 16 is a video link of that parade.

Figure 16. Film clip (2:55) of the 369th Infantry home coming Parade (Click on play icon)

In 1918, the American illustrator E.G. Renesch, turn Johnson and Robert’s courageous exploits into action color lithographs (figure 15). [68] In the lower left-hand corner there is a quote from Gen. Pershing, who praises the two African American sentries.

Figure 17 Johnson and Robert’s courageous exploits action color lithographs

“[They] continued fighting after receiving wounds and despite the use of grenades by a superior force”.[69]

Additionally, in 1944 during World War Two, the Office of War Information had their illustrator Charles Alston create cartoons of Sergeant Johnson (figure 16) promoting the war to the black community. Images like figure 16 were created to be circulated in black newspapers with the hopes of bolstering black recruitment during World War Two.[70]

Figure 18 A 1946 biographical cartoon of Henry Johnson created by Charles Alston.

According to Colin Fraser,

“More than 500 men of the 369th had earned the Croix du Guerre since Johnson and Roberts and furthermore became one of the most decorated U.S. regiments to serve in WWI. They garnered the nickname the “Harlem Hellfighters”.[71]

Despite the heroic acts of black soldiers like Johnson, Needham and the Hellfighters, not one black soldier earned a Medal of Honor during World War One, while 87 white men received the Medal for their actions in the Great War. The question this paper asks; what changed the militaries thinking towards black soldiers? Why was the Medal only awarded to white World War One soldiers?

Conclusion

The Author of this paper believes the presented evidence suggests white American males’ racial thinking against blacks was influenced and aroused to a greater level by the Supreme court ruling Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Jim Crow laws, white supremist books like Thomas Dixons Jr’s trilogy, and the motion picture by D. W. Griffin’s, The Birth of a Nation.

These information vehicles, the laws and mass media, increased racial tension in a country that was still wrestling with the psychological effects of ending slavery. Furthermore, it is this Essayist’s conviction that this increase in racial tension affected white military officers as suggested by Corporal W.T. Goode. “In the southern white officer’s eye, the man who did the most grinning was the best newsmonger and could dance the best or make the best monkeyshines, was the best Negro soldier”.[72] It is this racial bias by white officers in World War 1 that prohibited heroic black soldiers like Johnson and Needham from receiving the nation’s top military award the Medal of Honor.

Furthermore, evidence of military racial bias can be found in the October 30, 1925, report issued by the Army War College committee composed of Colonel Bishop, Major Drain and Major Somervell, entitled: The Use of Negro Manpower in War. Section III states,

“III. Fact a bearing upon the problem.

  1. The Negro is physically qualified for combat duty.

He is by nature subservient and believes himself to be inferior to the white man.

He is most susceptible to the influence of the crowd psychology.

He can not control himself in the fear of danger to the extent the white man can.

He has not the initiative and resourcefulness of the white man.

He is mentally inferior to the white men.

Section IV. Opinion of the War College

  1. In the process of evolution the American negro has not progressed as far as the other sub-species of the human family. As a race he has not developed leadership qualities. His mental inferiority and the inherent weaknesses of his character are factors that must be considered with great care in the preparation of any plan for his employment in war”.[73]

This report was submitted to the Army Chief of Staff in 1925 and followed for many years in the military. I believe this report and its racist overtones demonstrates, along with the previous racial vehicles discussed, why black soldiers were not awarded the Medal of Honor during or soon after World War One.

Additionally, Captain Schuyler Webb, in his February 2002 report Historical Overview of Racism in the Military for Directorate of Research, Defense Equal Opportunity Management, Patrick Air Force Base, presents evidence on how at least one white man thought publicly about black soldiers. It states,

“A White speaker in New Orleans stated, ‘You niggers were wondering how you were going to be treated after the war, same as before the war, this is a White-man’s country and we intend to rule it’”.[74]

Looking at history through today’s lens, it is hard to fathom such open racist comments towards a race that selflessly sacrificed its men in war for decades. Charles Hanna stated in his book, African American Recipients of the Medal of Honor,

“Black Americans have served in every one of America’s conflicts since the Revolutionary War. Since the Medal of Honor’s inception; 88 African Americans have earned the distinction: Civil War – Army 18, Navy 8; Indiana Wars – Army 18: Peacetime, 1872-1890 – Navy 8; Spanish American War – Army 5, Navy 1; World War One – Army 7; Korean War – Army 2; Vietnam – Army 15, Marine Corps 5; Totals Army 66, Navy 17, Marine Corps 5. The recipients of the Medal of Honor are true American heroes”.[75]

Moreover, Captain Webb in his article states,

“In this study of racism in our military, the reader may gain insight into how military leadership has been involved in racism and discrimination, and its effect on racial minority members throughout American history… racial discrimination during the world wars could well have extended to individual decisions leading to the awarding of medals in recognition of heroic action. Although racism and racial discrimination in the military have been declared to constitute human right abuses and violations, they persist”.[76]

In 1947, 32 years after The Birth of a Nation premiered, it was still being shown in theaters and influencing audiences with its white supremacist overtones. Figure 17 shows black protesters picketing the movie at a theater in New York. Melvyn Stokes, in his book D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation: a History of “the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time”, states,

Figure 19. 1947 protester outside a New York theater showing The Birth of a Nation

“In 1916, Harvard psychologist Hugo Münsterberg published a pioneering study analyzing the powerful influences of feature films on their audiences. The techniques used by filmmakers (such as close-ups and cutting), he believed, gave their films great powers of suggestion so far as spectators were concerned. Münsterberg insisted that “the intensity with which the [photo] plays take hold of the audience cannot remain without strong social effects”.[77]

It seems the power of the early 19th century racist media still lingered on in the mid-20th century, yet, by the late 20th century into the 21st century the racist stance in the military seemed to be ebbing. In June 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded Henry Johnson the Purple Heart.[78] On 11 April 2003, Johnson received the Distinguished Service Cross “for extraordinary heroism in action in France during the period 13 – 15 May 1918”[79], and on 2 June 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Sgt. Johnson the Medal of Honor.[80] All were awarded posthumously.

As the evidence presented suggests, prior to the influence of Jim Crow, Plessy vs. Ferguson, Dixon’s books and Griffin’s movie, gallant black soldiers received the Medal of Honor. The author of this paper believes state and national segregation laws, The Birth of a Nation and Thomas Dixon Jr.’s trilogy, influenced an entire nation and subsequently generations of military leaders, who in turned used the media’s message of white supremacy to deprive heroic black soldiers from receiving the Medal of Honor.

And whereas History affords us frequent Precedents of the wisest,

the freest, and bravest Nations have liberated their Slaves.[81]

Rhode Island General Assembly 1778

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Figure 1. Neuman. 2018. The Revolutionary War- The Ethiopian Regiment. 11 18. https://sites.google.com/site/afrowithneuman/the-revolutionary-war. 3

Figure 2. Neuman. 2018. The Revolutionary War- The Ethiopian Regiment. 11 18. https://sites.google.com/site/afrowithneuman/the-revolutionary-war………………………………………………4

Figure 3. Independence Hall Association. 2018. Octavius Catto: Remembering a Forgotten Hero. 12 07. http://www.ushistory.org/catto/chap4.html. 7

Figure 4. Wikipedia.org. 2018. William_Harvey_Carney. 12 11. /wiki/William_Harvey_Carney#/media/File:William_Harvey_Carney_c1864.jpg. 8

Figure 5. Alexandriava.gov. 2015. Fighting for Freedom, Black Union Soldiers of the Civil War. 10 25. https://www.alexandriava.gov/historic/fortward/default.aspx?id=40018. 9

Figure 6. Nebraska.gov. 2018. Buffalo Soldiers Photographs. 11 07. https://history.nebraska.gov/blog/buffalo-soldiers-photographs.. 11

Figure 7. Harper’s Weekly . 2018. Harper’s Weekly Vol. 42. 2181 pg. 1014. 11 04. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=pst.000020241148;view=1up;seq=369, p. 1014) 14

Figure 8. National Archives . 2018. America Enters the Great War. 11 17. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2017/spring/wwi-america-enters. 17

Figure 9. Public Domain. 2018. Birth of a Nation Theatrical Poster. 12 09. /wiki/The_Birth_of_a_Nation#/media/File:Birth_of_a_Nation_theatrical_poster.jpg. 19

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Figure 11. Public Domain, and Kevin Bair ed. 2018. Film clip of The Birth of a Nation. 12 09. https://youtu.be/sdmHVrD5ePY. 21

Figure 12. Nebraska.gov. 2018. Buffalo Soldiers Photographs. 11 07. https://history.nebraska.gov/blog/buffalo-soldiers-photographs. 23

Figure 13. Fraser, Colin. 2018. Henry Johnson, Known as the “Black Death” – America’s First World War Hero. 11 12. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-i/black-death-henry-johnson-hero.html. 24

Figure 14. The News Journal. 1919. The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) 15 Feb 1919, Sat. Page 7. 02 15. Accessed 12 05, 2018. https://www.newspapers.com/image/161098307/?terms=Henry%2BJohnson. 26

Figure 15. Scott, E. J. (1919). Scott’s Offical History Of The American Negro In Yhe World War . Chicago: Homewood Press. https://archive.org/details/scottsofficialhi00scot_0/page/n13. 27

Figure 16. Diversity, Army. 2015. World War I- The 369th Infantry Comes Home. 12 06. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upwzJ-IpCcQ. 27

Figure 17. Tennessee State Library & Archives. 2018. Our Colored Heroes. 12 05. http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15138coll18/id/2332. 28

Figure 18 National Archives. 2018. SGT. HENRY Johnson – American Hero of World War I – An Inspiration to our Fighting Men Today. 12 05. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/535680. 28

Figure 19. Stokes, Melvyn. 2007. D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation : a History of “the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time”. New York: Oxford University Press. 32

  1. Owens, R. (2004). Medal of Honor: Historical Facts & Figure. Paducha: Turner Publishing Company.
  2. Lanning, M. L. (2002). African Americans in the Revolutionary War. New York: Citadel. Pg. 43
  3. Lanning, African Americans, 43
  4. Schama, S. (2006). Rough Crossings: The Slaves, the British, and the American Revolution 1st U.S. ed. New York: Ecco.
  5. Neuman. (2018, 11 18). The Revolutionary War- The Ethiopian Regiment. Retrieved from Afro With Neuman. https://sites.google.com/site/afrowithneuman: https://sites.google.com/site/afrowithneuman/the-revolutionary-war.
  6. Neuman, The Revolutionary War.
  7. Gray, E. G. (2013). The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Pg. 259
  8. Rhode Island. General Assembly. General Assembly of the Governor and Company of the State of Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations. Febuary. Attleborough [Mass.]: S. Southwick. Early American Imprints, Series 1, no. 16030. Pp. 14-17, 1778.
  9. Worthington C. Ford et al., eds. . Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. XIII. Washington DC., 1904-37. : U.S. Govt. Print Off. P. 387. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/journals-of-the-continental-congress-march-29-1779/, 1909.
  10. Gray, E. G. (2013). The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 256
  11. U.S. Army Office of History. (2018, 12 4). Two Chiefs of Engineers were Medal of Honor Recipients? Retrieved from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Did you know? http://www.hq.usace.army.mil: /history/Vignettes/Vignette_78.htm
  12. U.S. Gov. National Archives. (2018, 12 04). The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863. Retrieved from National Archives and Records Administration: https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/american_originals_iv/sections/nonjavatext_emancipation.html
  13. Lincoln, A. (2018, 11 03). The President’s letter to the Hon. James C. Conkling … Aug. 26, 1863. Retrieved from Internet Archive. https://archive.org : https://archive.org/details/presidentsletter00linc/page/n1
  14. Holland, F. M. (1895). Frederick Douglass: the colored orator. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, Pg.301. https://archive.org/details/cu31924032775318/page/n7.
  15. Wisconsin, Semi-Weekly . (1863, 07 31). Semi-Weekly Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin) · 31 Jul 1863, Fri ·pg.2. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/8396731/?terms=54th%2BMassachusetts%2C%2BFort%2BWagner#
  16. Henig, G. S. (June 2009). “Glory at Battery Wagner.” . Civil War Times, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 36–39. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=38697833&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  17. Kuryla, P. (2018, 12 04). 54th Regiment. Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/54th-Massachusetts-Regiment
  18. PBS.org. (2018, 11 03). Judgement Day. Retaliation in camp 1864 Part 4 1831-1865. Retrieved from www.pbs.org/: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3082.html
  19. Fleetwood, C. A. (2018, 11 03). The Diary of Sargant Major Christian A. Fleetwood U.S. Colored Infantry Fourth Regiment, Company G . Retrieved from National Humanities Center.nationalhumanitiescenter.org:http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/maai/identity/text7/fleetwooddiary.pdf
  20. Fleetwood, C. A. (1895). The Negro as a Soldier. Washington, D.C.: Howard Univesity Print. 15
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Kuryla, P. (2018, 12 04). 54th Regiment. Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/54th-Massachusetts-Regiment
  24. Owens, R. (2004). Medal of Honor: Historical Facts & Figure. Paducha: Turner Publishing Company. 31
  25. Schubert, F. N. (1997). Black Valor : Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources.
  26. Ibid. 65
  27. Ibid.
  28. Schubert, F. N. (1997). Black Valor : Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898. Wilmington, Del.:Scholarly Resources. 96
  29. Ibid.
  30. Owens, R. (2004). Medal of Honor: Historical Facts & Figure. Paducha: Turner Publishing Company.51
  31. Cornell Law School. (2018, 12 07). Plessy v. Ferguson. Retrieved from Cornell Law School LegalInformation Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu:https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/163/537
  32. Cornell Law School. (2018, 12 07). Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Retrieved from Cornell Law School.Legal Information Institute : https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/brown_v_board_of_education_%281954%29
  33. Schubert, F. N. (1997). Black Valor : Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898. Wilmington, Del.:Scholarly Resources.
  34. Schubert, Black Valor.
  35. Ibid. 155.
  36. Schubert, F. N. (2018, 11 07). Buffalo Soldiers at San Juan Hill from -1998 Conference of Army Historians in Bethesda, Maryland. Retrieved from History.army.mil. https://history.army.mil:https://history.army.mil/documents/spanam/BSSJH/Shbrt-BSSJH.htm.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid. 36.
  39. Livingston, Rebecca. 2018. Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines of the Spanish-American War. The Legacy of USS Maine. 11 07. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1998/spring/spanish-american-war-1.html.
  40. PBS.org. (2018, 11 03). Judgement Day. Retaliation in camp 1864 Part 4 1831-1865. Retrieved from www.pbs.org/: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3082.htm
  41. Livingston, R. (2018, 11 07). Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines of the Spanish-American War. The Legacy of USS Maine. Retrieved from National Archives. www.archives.gov: https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1998/spring/spanish-american-war-1.html
  42. PBS.org. (2018, 11 03). Judgement Day. Retaliation in camp 1864 Part 4 1831-1865. Retrieved from www.pbs.org/: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3082.htm
  43. Goode, W. (1899). The “Eighth Illinois”. Chicago : Blakely Printing.https://archive.org/details/eighthillinois00good/page/n5. 173.
  44. Ibid. 172-173.
  45. Hanna, C. W. (2010). African American Recipients of the Medal of Honor: A Biographical Dictionary, Civil War through Vietnam War . Jefferson North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company Inc. 3.
  46. Naval History and Heritage Command. (2018, 12 04). Navy Medal of Honor: Spanish-American War 1898. Retrieved from Naval History and Heritage Command. https://www.history.navy.mil:https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/heritage/awards/decorations/medal-of-honor/spanish american-war-medal-of-honor-recipients.html
  47. Strachan, H. (2005). The First World War. New York: Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 64.
  48. Wilson, W. (2018, 11 17). How America Entered the Great War. Retrieved from Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/digitized-books/world-war-i-declarations/united-states.php
  49. Bryan, J. L. (2018, 12 09). Fighting For Respect: African-American Soldiers in WWI . Retrieved from Armyhistory.org. https://armyhistory.org: https://armyhistory.org/fighting-for-respect-african-american-soldiers-in-wwi/
  50. Pilgrim, D. (2018, 12 04). What was Jim Crow. Retrieved from Jim Crow Museum Ferris StateUniveristy : https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm#
  51. Brettle, A. (2017 Apr [cited 2018 Dec 4];29 (2)). Struggling to Realize a Vast Future: The Civil War as a Contest over the Relative Priorities of Political Liberty and Economic Prosperity. Journal of Policy History [Internet]., 67–88. Available from: http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=122424605&site=ehost-live&scope=site. 270
  52. Ibid.
  53. Corbett P. Scott, D. (2018, 12 04). The Antebellum South, 1800-1860. Retrieved from Brewminate.com. https://brewminate.com : h/the-antebellum-south-1800-1860/
  54. Jackson, K. T. (1967). The Ku Klux Klan in the city, 1915-1930. New York: Oxford University Press. 148-150
  55. Stokes, M. (2007). D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation : a History of “the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time”. New York: Oxford University Pres,. 233.
  56. United States Senate. (2018, 12 05). Landmark Legislation: The Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871. Retrievedfrom United States Senate: https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/EnforcementActs.htm.
  57. Gibson, R. (2015, 12 05). The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950.Retrieved from Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute:http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/1979/2/79.02.04.x.html#b
  58. White, W. F. (2001). Rope & Faggot: a Biography of Judge Lynch. Notre Dame, Ind: University of NotreDame Press, 2001. https://bltc-alexanderstreet-com.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/BLTC/hub.py?type=getdoc&docid=S8345-D005, 112-113.
  59. Glass, E. L. (1921). The history of the Tenth Cavalry, 1866-1921. Tucson, Ariz.: Acme Printing Company:https://archive.org/details/historyoftenthca00glasrich/page/90.
  60. Wharfield, H. B. (Autumn, 1968). The Affair at Carrizal. Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Vol. 18, No. 4, 24-39. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4517303. 37.
  61. Library of Congress. (2018, 11 12). African American Odyssey – World War I and Postwar Society. Retrieved from Memory Library of Congress. https://memory.loc.gov: https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aopart7.html
  62. Jamieson, J. A. (1919). Complete History of the Colored Soldiers In the World War: Authentic Story of the Greatest War of Civilized Times and What the Colored Man Did to Uphold Democracy and Liberty. . New York City: Bennett & Churchill.
  63. Ibid.
  64. Ibid.
  65. Jamieson, J. A. (1919). Complete History of the Colored Soldiers In the World War: Authentic Story of the Greatest War of Civilized Times and What the Colored Man Did to Uphold Democracy and Liberty. . New York City: Bennett & Churchill. 22-24.
  66. Jamieson, J. A. (1919). Complete History of the Colored Soldiers In the World War: Authentic Story of the Greatest War of Civilized Times and What the Colored Man Did to Uphold Democracy and Liberty. . New York City: Bennett & Churchill. 24.
  67. Wilmington Morning Star. (2018, 11 12). The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, New Hanover, North Carolina),25 Jul 1918, Thu, Page 5. Retrieved from Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/54550584/?terms=Henry%2BJohnson# 5.
  68. Tennessee State Library & Archives. (2018, 12 05). Our Colored Heroes. Retrieved from Tennessee State Library & Archives: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15138coll18/id/2332
  69. Army.mil . (2018, 12 05). Medal of Honor: Sergeant Henry Johnson. Retrieved from Army.mil Features. https://www.army.mil: https://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/johnson/
  70. Wintz, C. D. (2004). Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. New York : Routledge.
  71. Fraser, C. (2018, 11 12). Henry Johnson, Known as the “Black Death” – America’s First World War Hero. Retrieved from War History Online. https://www.warhistoryonline.com : https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/massacre-at-oradour-sur_glane-m.html
  72. Goode, W. (1899). The “Eighth Illinois”. Chicago : Blakely Printing. https://archive.org/details/eighthillinois00good/page/n5.
  73. Bishop, C. M. (1925). “Memorandum for the Chief of Staff Regarding Employment of Negro Man Power in War, November 10, 1925,”. Washington D.C. President’s Official Files 4245-G: Archives of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu: U.S. Goverment – War Department.
  74. Webb, Schuyler C. Captain, and Master Sergeant William J. Herrmann. 2018. Historical Overview of Racism in the Military. 12 05. /dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a488652.pdf.
  75. Hanna, C. W. (2010). African American Recipients of the Medal of Honor: A Biographical Dictionary, Civil War through Vietnam War . Jefferson North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company Inc. 3.
  76. Webb, S. C. (2018, 12 05). Historical Overview of Racism in the Military. Retrieved from https://apps.dtic.mil: /dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a488652.pdf
  77. Stokes, M. (2007). D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation: a History of “the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time”. New York: Oxford University Press. 250.
  78. Albany Times Union Staff. (2018, 12 06). Ceremony Marks 100th Anniversary of Henry Johnson’s Heroism. Retrieved from New York State Museum : http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/research-collections/state-history/notes/ceremony-marks-100th-anniversary-henry-johnsons-heroism
  79. Arlington Cemetery. (2018, 12 06). Henry-Johnson. Retrieved from Arlington Cemetery.net. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.ne: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/henry-johnson.htm
  80. Shear, M. D. (2018, 12 06). Two World War I Soldiers Posthumously Receive Medal of Honor. Retrieved from New York Times : https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/us/two-world-war-i-soldiers-to-posthumously-receive-medal-of-honor.html
  81. Rhode Island General Assembly 1778. (2018, 10 26). Act creating the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, alsoknown as the “Black Regiment, 02_14_1778 Primary Source Document Transcription. Retrieved fromRhode Island State Archives: https://sos.ri.gov/assets/downloads/documents/Black-Regiment.pdf

 

By Kevin M. Bair
Professor Furgol
Johns Hopkins University
AS.450.654.81 and 82
“When the lamps went out”: World War One as history, memory and commemoration
December 14, 2018

Introduction

The intent of this paper is to examine why black soldiers did not earn the nation’s highest military award, the Medal of Honor during World War One (WW I). Black soldiers, despite centuries of subjugation fought courageously for America during the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), Civil War (1861-1865), Indian Wars (1849-1923), Spanish American War (1898), and World War One (1914-1918). Some of these soldiers went above and beyond the call of duty, displaying exceptional valor to save fallen comrades or the fallen American flag, i.e., “the colors”. Their exceptional heroism earned some of them the nation’s highest military honor. Black soldiers in these conflicts earned sixty-nine Medals of Honor: twenty-five in the Civil War, eighteen in the Indian Wars, and twenty-six during the Spanish American War[1], yet none were awarded to blacks for their valor in WW I.

Additionally, this paper asks if the Jim Crow Laws (1877-1960’s) and the Supreme Court ruling, Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896), could have negatively influenced top military commanders’ opinions of gallant World War I black soldiers. Additionally, did the 1915 motion picture The Birth of a Nation by D. W. Griffin; based on the fictional post-Civil War white supremacist trilogy, The Leopard’s Spots (1902), The Clansman (1905), The Traitor (1907), by Thomas Dixon Jr. (1864-1946), also bias the Medals committee against black soldiers.

African Americans in the Revolutionary War

(1775-1781)

Although the Medal of Honor did not exist until 1862, I feel it is important to start this discussion with a brief look at courageous black soldiers in the American Revolution. According to Michael Lanning in his book, African Americans in the Revolutionary War, the rebel colonists were desperate for additional manpower to fight the British. At the time of the Revolution, the 13 colonies were home to approximately two million whites, and about 500,000 African blacks; most were slaves.[2] Prior to the Revolutionary war, the colonies used black men to help them defend the villages from the indigenous population by enlisting then into the local militias.[3]

In the war, blacks fought for both America and the British; their goal being freedom. To help fill his ranks, Lord Dunmore the British colonial governor of Virginia, proclaimed on 7 November 1775, that any escaped slaves who reach the British lines were promised their freedom and liberty after serving in the British army.[4]

This promise of freedom worked, as “several thousand fled to Dunmore”.[5] Once Dunmore had his black recruits, he formed the British Ethiopian Regiment. He then had some of his new regiment go into battle wearing a sash with the phrase, “Liberty to Slaves” inscribed on it (figure 1).[6] According to an American who faced the black regiment at Great Bridge, south of Norfolk, “The Ethiopian Regiment fought with the intrepidity of lions”.[7]

Figure 1. Renactment of the Ethiopian Regimen

1778 Rhode Island General Assembly

George Washington, in response to Lord Dunmore’s proclamation, was concerned many slaves would run towards freedom and aid the British. Washington, aided by Brigadier-General Varnum, in conjunction with the February 14, 1778 agreement from the Rhode Island General Assembly, created two battalions of slaves willing to fight. The General Assembly stated,

“that every able-bodied Negro, Mulatto, or Indian Man Slave, in this State, may enlist into either of the said two Battalions to serve during the Continuance of the present War with Great-Britain: That every Slave, so enlisting, shall be entitled to, and receive, all the Bounties, Wages, and Encouragements, allowed by the Continental Congress, to any Soldier enlisting into their Service”.[8]

These battalions became known as the First Rhode Island Regiment (Figure 2). Additionally, in March 1779, the Continental Congress stated,

“every negro who shall well and faithfully serve as a soldier to the end of the present war, and shall then return his arms, be emancipated and receive the sum of fifty dollars”.[9]

Figure 2. Reenactment of the First Rhode Island Regiment

Black soldiers were heroic and risked their lives in many ways during the revolutionary war. One such man was James Armistead, a slave of William Armistead of Virginia. According to Edward G. Gray in The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution, James Armistead became a spy for commander General Lafayette of the Continental Army. As part of his duties, Armistead managed to become a servant to British General Lord Cornwallis, and through his position he managed to gain insight into Cornwallis battle plans. He then would slip away to give Lafayette this crucial information. Armistead’s inside information helped Lafayette and the Continental Army win the 1781 Battle of Yorktown Virginia, against Cornwallis and his army. This victory prompted the British government to end the war. James Armistead returned to slavery after the war and was eventually emancipated in 1786; after Lafayette wrote the Virginia Legislator on Armistead’s behalf, and his Master was compensated for his freedom.[10]

The America Civil War (1861-1865)

Birth of the Medal of Honor

During the early years of the Civil War, the U.S. Navy wanted to officially recognize distinct acts of heroism with a campaign decoration. President Lincoln agreed, and on 21 December 1861, he signed Public Resolution 82 creating the Naval Medal of Valor. Then on 12 July 1862, Lincoln approved the War Department’s desire for their own Army Medal of Valor. Soon afterwards Congress combined and renamed these medals to simply the Medal of Honor.[11] Medals were not enough to win the war though, President Lincoln needed men.

By the second year of the war, Lincoln realized the Union Army needed more soldiers to win. In January 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in the states that had seceded from the Union. For this proclamation to remain effective, the Union Army needed to win the war. Lincoln’s proclamation gave hope to millions of enslaved blacks and provided a way for Lincoln to increase the size of his Army and Navy. The United States Government could now enlist the once enslaved black men into men fighting for their freedom.[12]

In 1863, President Lincoln, in a letter to friend and fellow lawyer, James C. Conkling, gave insight into his thoughts on using blacks for the war effort.

“Negroes, like other people, act upon motives. Why should they do anything for us if we will do nothing for them? If they stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive, even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept… there will be some black men who can remember that with silent tongue and clenched teeth, and steady eye and well-poised bayonet, they have helped mankind on to this great consummation; while I fear there will lie some white ones unable to forget that with malignant heart and deceitful speech they have strove to hinder it”.[13]

Freedom is a powerful motivator and I believe Fredrick Douglas best described black men’s desire and need to fight in the war,

“Never since the world began was there a better chance offered to a long enslaved and oppressed people. The opportunity is given us to be men. With one courageous resolution, we may blot out the handwriting of ages against us. Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters U. S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket; and there is no power on the earth, or under the earth, which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States”.[14]

To aid in recruiting blacks, the war department created recruitment posters such as in figure 3. The images within the recruitment poster showing well-dressed black men, clean, wearing shoes, holding guns, standing under the American flag, led by a gentle looking white officer, must have played heavily on the emotions of newly emancipated slaves or those still enslaved who might have seen such a poster. Posters such as this would have inspired slaves to run away from their masters and join the Union Army.

Figure 3 US Colored Troops recruiting poster was published by the Philadelphia Supervisory Committee

Blacks during the war repeatedly proved their fighting capabilities. The black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, became famous for its fighting ability. On 18 July 1863, the regiment was ordered to attack Fort Wagner, on Morris Island in Charleston, South Carolina. It was noted in several newspapers that the 54th Regiment fighting from the beach and scrub grass fought valiantly against the fort protected Confederate force. The battle consumed at least half of the 54th men. According to the 1863 Wisconsin paper, the Semi-Weekly Wisconsin,

Figure 4. Sgt. Carney

“The 54th Massachusetts (negro), whom copperhead officers would have called cowardly if they had stormed and carried the gates of hell, went boldly into battle, for the second time, commanded by their brave Colonel, but came out of it led by no higher officer than the boy, Lieut. Higginson”.[15]

During the Battle of Fort Wagner, Sgt. William H. Carney (figure 4) of the 54th, a man born into slavery in 1840, saw under heavy enemy fire the company’s flag bearer shot dead. He courageously risked his life to retrieve the colors. For this action, Carney earned the Medal of Honor. [16]The heroic actions displayed by the 54th convinced many Northern leaders that black men could be good soldiers.[17]

In 1864, George W. Hatton, a former slave, became a Sergeant in Company C of the First Regiment of the United States Colored Troops. Hatton expressed his sentiment for the country when he stated,

“Though the Government openly declared that it did not want the negroes in this conflict, I look around me and see hundreds of colored men armed and ready to defend the Government at any moment; and such are my feelings, that I can only say, the fetters have fallen — our bondage is over”.[18]

Blacks empowered with the chance of freedom fought fiercely, and Sargent Major Christian Abraham Fleetwood (1840-1914) (figure 5), was no exception. Fleetwood, a free black from Baltimore, Maryland, performed heroically at the Battle of New Market Heights, outside of Richmond, Virginia, on 29 September 1864. Excerpts from Fleetwood’s diary describe his thoughts on the battle,

Figure 5. Sgt. Major Christian A. Fleetwood, 4th U.S. Colored Troops, Medal of Honor Recipient

“THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1864, Coffee boiled and, line formed. Moved out & on Charged with the 6th at daylight and got used up. Saved colors”.[19]

The words “Saved colors” are modest ones from the man who performed the act. As the Battle of New Market Heights raged on, the US Colored Troop flag bearers were shot and killed. Fleetwood in his book The Negro as a Soldier, recalls he heard flag bearer Sergeant Hilton cry out as he went down, “Boys, save the colors”.[20] At this point, Fleetwood grabbed the colors before they fell on the ground, held the flag high, rallied the troops, and charged through the confederate line. Additionally, he states, “out of a color guard of twelve men …[only] one came off the field on his own feet”. [21]

Fleetwood’s commanding officer Maj. General B. F. Butler made this comment about the battle.

“In the charge on the enemy’s works by the colored division of the 18th Corps at New Market … The colored soldiers, by coolness, steadiness, determined courage and dash, have silenced every cavil of the doubters of their soldierly capacity, and drawn tokens of admiration from their enemies, have brought their late masters even to the consideration of the question whether they will not employ as soldiers the hitherto despised race”.[22]

Fleetwood, like Carney, received the Medal of Honor for bravery. More than 178,000 black men served in the Union army[23] with 25 blacks earning the Medal of Honor. [24]

Indian Wars (1849-1923)

Buffalo Soldiers

Black soldiers fought against the Indians in various battles on the Western frontier. Some of the wars were The Apache Wars (1877-1881) and the Ute Wars (1849-1923). Black soldiers were used to protect the growing number of settlers moving West after the Civil War from, “desperadoes, swindlers, and assorted bad men”.[25]

Figure 6. Buffalo Soldiers in 1889 at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

According to Captain Francis S. Dodge, during the Ute War when the Buffalo Soldiers (figure 6) arrived to aid an embattled white troop, the “white troops cheered wildly”.[26] Yet, out on the frontier, the uniformed blacks could not escape racial humiliation. As Dodge recorded several weeks later in his diary, “[during the battle] several Ute warriors called out at once: ‘To-Maricat’z! The black – whitemen! The Buffalo Soldiers!’” The Ute warriors created a song about the Buffalo Soldiers as they understood the racial hierarchy of the blacks to the whites:

“Soldiers with the black face

You ride into battle behind the white soldier;

But you can’t take off your black face,

And the white-faced soldiers make you ride behind them”.[27]

Despite experiencing racial problems during the various frontier wars, the blacks performed exceptionally well. The Buffalo’s Corporal Isaiah Mays (1858-1925) B Troop 24th Infantry, and Sergeant Benjamin Brown (1859-1910) C Troop 9th Cavalry, were awarded the Medal of Honor for valor. In 1898, as payroll escorts, these men, along with ten other infantrymen, defended the payroll wagon containing $28,000 in gold from being robbed. Eight other men were awarded Certificates of Honor.[28]

According to Major Joseph W. Wham, May’s and Brown’s commander, who had delivered the payroll for twelve years, and fought in 16 battles himself as an enlisted Union soldier, stated, “[I have] never witnessed better courage or better fighting than shown by these colored soldiers, on May 11th, 1889”.[29]

During the Indian Wars, a total of eighteen Buffalo Soldiers earned the Medal of Honor for their deeds of bravery.[30]

By 1896, the Indian Wars were winding down and the Spanish American War was still two years away waiting for the February 15, 1898 explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana’s harbor. In 1896, another war was being fought and this time it was in the United States Supreme court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson, separate but equal, dividing whites from the blacks in all public spaces.[31] This law would have a profound effect on the nation and the military for years to come. It remained in effect until being overturned in 1954, when the Brown v. Board of Education case ended segregation in public education.[32]

Buffalo Soldier

Spanish American War

(‎April 21, 1898 – August 13, 1898)

Through action of valor in the Spanish American war, five Buffalos of the Tenth Cavalry earned the Metal of Honor. Sergeant Major Edward L. Baker Jr. (1865-1913), Private Dennis Bell (1866-1953), Private Fitz Lee (1866-1899), Private William H. Thompkins (1872-1916), Private George Henry Wanton (1868-1940).[33]

Bell, Lee, Thompkins and Wanton received their medals of bravery in the Battle of Tayacoba for repeatedly rescuing fallen comrades who were trapped on a beach. Sergeant Major Edward L. Baker Jr earned his for rescuing Private Lewis Marshall of C Troop.

Baker saw from a distance that Marshall was face down in waist deep water struggling for his life. Baker, against the better judgement of comrades, made his way through the thick brush and rescued Marshall. Baker later recalled in his diary, “[Shells] passed so close as to cause me to feel the heat”.[34] He dragged Marshall to safety then ran for a surgeon. Lieutenant Colonel Baldwin remarked about Baker’s actions, “[He] displayed a bravery and fearlessness that was wonderful …there is no man more worthy of the medal…I do not hesitate to recommend him for one”.[35]

During the July 1898 battles of San Juan Hill and Kettle Hill, blacks and whites fought side by side while enduring the blistering heat and driving rain. They shared food and drink as well as peril and discomfort. “They forged a victory that …. belonged to all of them”.[36] One example of the black soldiers’ courage was seen in 1898 Harper’s Weekly vol.42. with an illustration of Captain Taylor of Troop C, 9th Cavalry and his fellow black soldiers storming San Juan Hill (figure 7).

Figure 7 Captain Taylor of Troop C, 9th Cavalry, leading the charge at San Juan, July 1, 1898 by Fletcher C. Ransom

According to Dr. Frank Schubert, historian in the Joint History Office, Office of the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington D.C., “Black newspapers and magazines tracked their [black soldier’s] movements and reported their activities. Poetry, dramas, and songs all celebrated their service and valor.[37] Schubert also noted,

“15,000 American troops of Maj. Gen. William R. Shafter’s Fifth Army Corps participated in the battles on the high ground near Santiago, Cuba, on 1 July 1898. About 13,000 of them were white; 2,000 or so were black…More than 200 soldiers were killed in action, and nearly 30 of those who fell were from the four black Regular Army regiments, the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry”.[38]

There was a total of 280,564 sailors, soldiers, and marines who served during the war. Out of those, 2,061 died from other causes.[39]

Unlike the segregated Army, Navy ships integrated their soldiers. Sailors from many nationalities served together, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, all served alongside the whites and blacks. [40]Many blacks had personal reasons to join and fight in Cuba. When the U.S.S. Maine exploded in February 1898, of the 260 men killed, 22 were black sailors.[41] The Navy, out of necessity, started to integrate sailors during the Revolutionary War, and “Unlike the Continental Army, the Navy recruited both free and enslaved blacks from the very start of the Revolutionary War — partly out of desperation for seamen of any color”. [42]

According to Corporal W.T. Goode, Company T, Eighth Illinois Volunteer Regiment, army life during the Cuba crisis was not easy for the black troops, as Southern white officers and black soldiers did not work well together. Goode explains in his book Eighth Illinois,

“The Ninth Louisiana (colonels, majors and captains white), before they were on the island two months, had nine commissioned officers resign. Cause, brutal treatment — prejudicial and domineering — from their superior and selfish southern white officers… in the southern white officer’s eye the man who did the most grinning was the best newsmonger and could dance the best or make the best monkeyshines, was the best Negro soldier”.[43]

Rev. H. C. C. Astwood of Philadelphia said,

“The Ninth Louisiana, colored volunteers, one of the best set of men in Cuba, have been rendered useless by inefficient and prejudicial white officers… Colored soldiers with white southern officers are a failure, and the men who endure it are fools, slaves and cowards. Colored troops should be officered by competent colored men or refuse service”.[44]

A total of 26 Medals of Honor were awarded to blacks during the Spanish American war,[45] and 76 were awarded to whites [46].

World War One (1914-1918),

Heroic blacks, Non-Medal of Honor

In August 1914, many mobilized British soldiers hoped, “they would be back home soon: before the leaves fell as winter set in, and certainly in time for Christmas”.[47] As Americans celebrated and welcomed New Year’s 1915, the Europeans were fighting and dying in the trenches. The war was causing massive destruction, consuming men and resources in a scale unseen in prior wars. America remained on the sidelines steeped in her conviction the war was not her fight. As the war dragged on, the European soldiers realized they would not be home before the leaves fell. By April 1917, America was forced to change her mind, and rolled out the dogs of war to engage the demons of Democracy. President Wilson, in his address to Congress on April 2nd, persuaded Congress to support the war with his emotionally charged declaration, “The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty… We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind”.[48]

As American soldiers readied and marched off to war, the American people roared with pride and supported their men in uniform (figure 8). America was in a frenzy of national pride. American men were ready to fight; to do their part in defending Lady Liberty. At the start of the war, black men were denied enlistment until 18 May 1917, when Congress passed the Selective Service Act, requiring all male citizens between the ages of 21 and 31 to register for the draft, yet once enlisted blacks were maintained in segregated unites and not allowed combated roles until 10 March 1918.[49].

Figure 8. American soldiers embark for the

front in France

The 1896 Supreme Court case Plessy vs. Fergusonseparate but equal law became the foundation for national legal segregation laws. This law when combined with existing regional segregation laws were known as Jim Crow laws (1877-1960’s). These amplified whites’ preexisting beliefs that blacks were inferior.

According to Professor David Pilgrim at the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University,

“Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system which operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. Jim Crow was more than a series of rigid anti-black laws. It was a way of life. Under Jim Crow, African Americans were relegated to the status of second class citizens. Jim Crow represented the legitimization of anti-black racism. Many Christian ministers and theologians taught that whites were the Chosen people, blacks were cursed to be servants, and God supported racial segregation. Craniologists, eugenicists, phrenologists, and Social Darwinists, at every educational level, buttressed the belief that blacks were innately intellectually and culturally inferior to whites”.[50]

Blacks were legally excluded from all activities enjoyed by whites in public spaces; this was especially true in the southern states. After the Civil War, the southern states who depended on slavery lost the right to enslave blacks. This loss of an enslaved workforce ruined the southern economy embittering many southern whites. Southern Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, whom later became the President of the Confederacy, believed that “southern prosperity rested on the productivity of the southern slave-based economy and the northern capacity to utilize many of the South’s products in manufacturing and commerce”[51], and on January 21, 1861, during his last speech to his fellow senators, Davis reminded them that any equality provided by Lincoln for the enslaved blacks would upset the political economy and “emancipation would be the sinking millstone around the neck of southern prosperity and northern well-being”.[52]

Dr. P. Scott Corbett, Professor of History Ventura College, states, “By the mid-nineteenth century, southern commercial centers like New Orleans had become home to the greatest concentration of wealth in the United States … slavery shaped the culture and society of the South, which rested on a racial ideology of white supremacy and a vision of the United States as a white man’s republic”.[53] This long standing and ingrained belief in the South’s racial right to enslave blacks did not simply fade away after the Civil War. After the war, racial hatred sprung up due to white supremacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), and the advent of major motion pictures such as the movie The Birth of a Nation (figure 9) by D. W. Griffith. This movie, shown nationwide, glamorized the KKK and the South’s right to terrorize the blacks back into submission.

Figure 9. The Birth of a Nation Theatrical

release poster

Griffith based his movies on Thomas Dixon’s books, with a particular focus on Dixon’s book The Clansmen (1905). Both medias prompted and supported white supremacy. Figure 10 is and a promotional ad for the film from the December 05, 1915 newspaper The Atlanta Constitution. Figure 11, play button is a link to a film clip of The Birth of a Nation, using figure 10 as a cover photo cover for the clip.

Figure 10. The Atlanta Constitution, Dec 05, 1915

Figure 11. Film clip from The Birth of a Nation (click play icon)

https://youtu.be/sdmHVrD5ePY

Furthermore, Kenneth T Jackson, suggests in his book, The Ku Klux Klan in the city, 1915-1930, “The Birth of a Nation was ultimately viewed by more than fifty million people and had a vast influence in the shaping of popular misconceptions about the critical Reconstruction period of American history”.[54] Additionally, it is reported after the film opening in Georgia that it spurred a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan. On October 26th, 1915, William J Simmons, applied to the State of Georgia to open a fraternal order of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. In November, his request was permitted. Simmons told his new members, “he planned to revive the ancient glories” [55] of the Klan by lighting a fiery cross on Stone Mountain.

After the Civil War, the KKK became a national threat to the country’s democracy. In 1870, and 1871, Congress passed the Enforcement Acts to end such violence and allow the president to protect African Americans with military force if need be. During this time, the Senate passed the Force Acts, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Acts. These were created to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866.[56] These legal measures took their toll on the Klan. According to Robert Gibson, in his book, The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950, “After 1892, lynching’s declined quite steadily until about 1905, when there were sixty-two”.[57]

Data from 1915-1922 shows a steady rate of lynching’s against blacks though. In 1915, ninety-nine blacks were lynched, fifty-four in 1917, sixty-seven in 1918, eighty-three in 1919, sixty-five in 1920, sixty-four in 1921, and sixty-one in 1922.[58] This information suggests that after Dixon’s books were published and The Birth of a Nation was released, the country’s whites regressed in their acceptance of blacks as equal citizens.

By 1915, American black men had a long history of serving the country as soldiers. From 1907-1909, the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, while deployed to the Philippians, were the first American troops to use and perfect the use of the machine gun. They were known as The Machine Gun Troop.[59] In 1915, the Buffalo Soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry, from Fort Robinson Texas, under the command of General John J. Pershing were part of Pershing’s Punitive Expedition force. The Buffalos were ordered to ride into Mexico (figure 10) and capture Pancho Villa.[60] By April 1918, when President Wilson announced a declaration of war, the black soldier was a proven warrior earning a total of 69 Metals of Honor in the previous conflicts.

Figure 12 Troop I, 10th Cavalry out of Fort Robinson circa 1904

Despite years of prejudice and aggression from whites, black males were eager to fight in World War One, seeking to win honor and glory in battles like their predecessors, the Buffalo Soldiers. To many black men, military service, even with its racial obstacles, offered them a better chance to be a “man” than life as a black man living in the South.

During World War I, more than 350,000 blacks served in segregated units. Of these 350,000, 171 were awarded the French Legion of Honor.[61] Of the heroes honored by the French government, two American black soldiers, Private Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts (figure 11) from Company C, of the 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, American Expeditionary Forces, were the first Americans awarded the French Croix de Guerre medal for bravery.[62]

Figure 13 William Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts standing with their French Croix de Guerre medals in 1918

The courage displayed by these men on the night of May 14, 1918, in the Argonne Forest was exemplary. While on night patrol, the men fought off twenty or more Germans who tried to capture them. In the process, they killed four and wounded twenty-two[63]. Their actions made them heroes and improved the image of the black soldiers thus challenging the racial thinking of bigoted Americans.[64]

The following excerpt is from a letter by Colonel Hayward, Commander 369th United States Infantry, to Private Johnson’s wife:

“Your husband, Pvt. Henry Johnson, … He has been at all times a good soldier and a good boy of fine morale and upright character. To these admirable traits he has lately added the most convincing numbers of fine courage and fighting ability…

“He and Pvt. Needham Roberts were on guard together at a small outpost on the front line trench near the German lines and during the night a strong raiding party of Germans, numbering from twelve to twenty … made a surprise attack in the dead of the night on our two brave soldiers…

“We had learned some time ago from captured German prisoners that the Germans had heard of the regiment of Black Americans in this sector, and the German officers had told their men how easy to combat and capture them it would be. So this raiding party came over…

“At the beginning of the attack the Germans fired a volley of bullets and grenades and both of the boys were wounded, your husband three times and Roberts twice,

“The boys inflicted great loss on the enemy, but Roberts was overpowered and about to be carried away when your husband, who had used up all of the cartridges in the magazine of his rifle and had knocked one German down with the butt end of it, drew his bolo from his belt…. He rushed to the rescue of his former comrade, and fighting desperately, opened with his bolo the head of the German who was throttling Roberts, and turned to the boche who had Roberts by the feet, plunging the bolo into the German’s bowels…

“Henry laid about him right and left with his heavy knife, and Roberts, released from the grasp of the scoundrels, began again to throw hand grenades and exploded them in their midst, and the Germans, doubtless thinking it was a host instead of two brave colored boys fighting like tigers at bay, picked up their dead and wounded and slunk away, leaving many weapons and part of their shot-riddled clothing, and leaving a trail of blood, which we followed at dawn near to their lines…. “So it was in this way the Germans found the Black Americans.
“Both boys… will receive the Croix de Guerre (cross of war)”.[65]

Below is a translation of the French award citation:

“First—Johnson, Henry (13349), private in Co. C, being on double sentry duty during the night and having been assaulted by a group composed of at least one dozen Germans, shot and disabled one of them and grievously wounded two others with his bolo, in spite of three wounds with pistol bullets and grenades at the beginning of the fight; this man ran to the assistance of his wounded comrade who was about to be carried away prisoner by the enemy, and continued to fight up to the retreat of the Germans. He has given a beautiful example of courage and activity.

“Second—Roberts, Needham (13369), private in Co. C, being on double sentry duty during the night was assaulted and grievously wounded in his leg by a group of Germans continuing fighting by throwing grenades, although he was prone on the ground, up to the retreat of the enemy. Good and brave soldier.[66]

Once the newspapers started spreading the story about these black soldiers defeating so many Germans, they became famous. Figure 12 is from The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) 15 February, 1919, and the article quoted below is from the 25 July, 1919 North Carolina newspaper, The Wilmington Morning Star:

Figure 14. Headline from The News Journal

Hero of Big Fight With Huns … Henry Johnson, colored soldier in a New York regiment, who, with another negro, Needham Roberts whipped a patrol of twenty Germans, killing and wounding several, which exploit was duly chronicled in the press dispatches at the time, “If any one doubts the fighting ability of the colored man, or the part that he is taking in this war, we invite them to read the article below, which gives a startling account of a desperate engagement, in the dead hours of the night, between two brave colored boys, Private Henry Johnson, of this city, and a comrade by the name of Needham Roberts, and a party of about twenty Germans, who made a surprise attack on the colored boys, and although outnumbered ten to one, they outfought the whole bunch, killing several, wounding several and completely routing the balance that were glad enough to get away”.[67]

When Johnson and his unit, the 369th, returned home on 17 February 1919, Johnson led a welcome home parade down New York City’s 5th Avenue to Harlem (figure 15).

Figure 15 Welcoming- a Victorious Hero. Henry Johnson, the First American of any race to receive the Croix de Guerre, being carried in triumph up Fifth Avenue on his return

Figure 16 is a video link of that parade.

Figure 16. Film clip (2:55) of the 369th Infantry home coming Parade (Click on play icon)

In 1918, the American illustrator E.G. Renesch, turn Johnson and Robert’s courageous exploits into action color lithographs (figure 15). [68] In the lower left-hand corner there is a quote from Gen. Pershing, who praises the two African American sentries.

Figure 17 Johnson and Robert’s courageous exploits action color lithographs

“[They] continued fighting after receiving wounds and despite the use of grenades by a superior force”.[69]

Additionally, in 1944 during World War Two, the Office of War Information had their illustrator Charles Alston create cartoons of Sergeant Johnson (figure 16) promoting the war to the black community. Images like figure 16 were created to be circulated in black newspapers with the hopes of bolstering black recruitment during World War Two.[70]

Figure 18 A 1946 biographical cartoon of Henry Johnson created by Charles Alston.

According to Colin Fraser,

“More than 500 men of the 369th had earned the Croix du Guerre since Johnson and Roberts and furthermore became one of the most decorated U.S. regiments to serve in WWI. They garnered the nickname the “Harlem Hellfighters”.[71]

Despite the heroic acts of black soldiers like Johnson, Needham and the Hellfighters, not one black soldier earned a Medal of Honor during World War One, while 87 white men received the Medal for their actions in the Great War. The question this paper asks; what changed the militaries thinking towards black soldiers? Why was the Medal only awarded to white World War One soldiers?

Conclusion

The Author of this paper believes the presented evidence suggests white American males’ racial thinking against blacks was influenced and aroused to a greater level by the Supreme court ruling Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Jim Crow laws, white supremist books like Thomas Dixons Jr’s trilogy, and the motion picture by D. W. Griffin’s, The Birth of a Nation.

These information vehicles, the laws and mass media, increased racial tension in a country that was still wrestling with the psychological effects of ending slavery. Furthermore, it is this Essayist’s conviction that this increase in racial tension affected white military officers as suggested by Corporal W.T. Goode. “In the southern white officer’s eye, the man who did the most grinning was the best newsmonger and could dance the best or make the best monkeyshines, was the best Negro soldier”.[72] It is this racial bias by white officers in World War 1 that prohibited heroic black soldiers like Johnson and Needham from receiving the nation’s top military award the Medal of Honor.

Furthermore, evidence of military racial bias can be found in the October 30, 1925, report issued by the Army War College committee composed of Colonel Bishop, Major Drain and Major Somervell, entitled: The Use of Negro Manpower in War. Section III states,

“III. Fact a bearing upon the problem.

  1. The Negro is physically qualified for combat duty.

He is by nature subservient and believes himself to be inferior to the white man.

He is most susceptible to the influence of the crowd psychology.

He can not control himself in the fear of danger to the extent the white man can.

He has not the initiative and resourcefulness of the white man.

He is mentally inferior to the white men.

Section IV. Opinion of the War College

  1. In the process of evolution the American negro has not progressed as far as the other sub-species of the human family. As a race he has not developed leadership qualities. His mental inferiority and the inherent weaknesses of his character are factors that must be considered with great care in the preparation of any plan for his employment in war”.[73]

This report was submitted to the Army Chief of Staff in 1925 and followed for many years in the military. I believe this report and its racist overtones demonstrates, along with the previous racial vehicles discussed, why black soldiers were not awarded the Medal of Honor during or soon after World War One.

Additionally, Captain Schuyler Webb, in his February 2002 report Historical Overview of Racism in the Military for Directorate of Research, Defense Equal Opportunity Management, Patrick Air Force Base, presents evidence on how at least one white man thought publicly about black soldiers. It states,

“A White speaker in New Orleans stated, ‘You niggers were wondering how you were going to be treated after the war, same as before the war, this is a White-man’s country and we intend to rule it’”.[74]

Looking at history through today’s lens, it is hard to fathom such open racist comments towards a race that selflessly sacrificed its men in war for decades. Charles Hanna stated in his book, African American Recipients of the Medal of Honor,

“Black Americans have served in every one of America’s conflicts since the Revolutionary War. Since the Medal of Honor’s inception; 88 African Americans have earned the distinction: Civil War – Army 18, Navy 8; Indiana Wars – Army 18: Peacetime, 1872-1890 – Navy 8; Spanish American War – Army 5, Navy 1; World War One – Army 7; Korean War – Army 2; Vietnam – Army 15, Marine Corps 5; Totals Army 66, Navy 17, Marine Corps 5. The recipients of the Medal of Honor are true American heroes”.[75]

Moreover, Captain Webb in his article states,

“In this study of racism in our military, the reader may gain insight into how military leadership has been involved in racism and discrimination, and its effect on racial minority members throughout American history… racial discrimination during the world wars could well have extended to individual decisions leading to the awarding of medals in recognition of heroic action. Although racism and racial discrimination in the military have been declared to constitute human right abuses and violations, they persist”.[76]

In 1947, 32 years after The Birth of a Nation premiered, it was still being shown in theaters and influencing audiences with its white supremacist overtones. Figure 17 shows black protesters picketing the movie at a theater in New York. Melvyn Stokes, in his book D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation: a History of “the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time”, states,

Figure 19. 1947 protester outside a New York theater showing The Birth of a Nation

“In 1916, Harvard psychologist Hugo Münsterberg published a pioneering study analyzing the powerful influences of feature films on their audiences. The techniques used by filmmakers (such as close-ups and cutting), he believed, gave their films great powers of suggestion so far as spectators were concerned. Münsterberg insisted that “the intensity with which the [photo] plays take hold of the audience cannot remain without strong social effects”.[77]

It seems the power of the early 19th century racist media still lingered on in the mid-20th century, yet, by the late 20th century into the 21st century the racist stance in the military seemed to be ebbing. In June 1996, President Bill Clinton awarded Henry Johnson the Purple Heart.[78] On 11 April 2003, Johnson received the Distinguished Service Cross “for extraordinary heroism in action in France during the period 13 – 15 May 1918”[79], and on 2 June 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Sgt. Johnson the Medal of Honor.[80] All were awarded posthumously.

As the evidence presented suggests, prior to the influence of Jim Crow, Plessy vs. Ferguson, Dixon’s books and Griffin’s movie, gallant black soldiers received the Medal of Honor. The author of this paper believes state and national segregation laws, The Birth of a Nation and Thomas Dixon Jr.’s trilogy, influenced an entire nation and subsequently generations of military leaders, who in turned used the media’s message of white supremacy to deprive heroic black soldiers from receiving the Medal of Honor.

And whereas History affords us frequent Precedents of the wisest,

the freest, and bravest Nations have liberated their Slaves.[81]

Rhode Island General Assembly 1778

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Washington, George, John C. Fitzpatrick ed. 1930. The Writings of George Washington From the Original Manuscript Sources, Vol. 4. Oct. 1775-Apr. 1776. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off, 193144.

Webb, Schuyler C. Captain, and Master Sergeant William J. Herrmann. 2018. Historical Overview of Racism in the Military. 12 05. /dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a488652.pdf.

Wharfield, H. B. Autumn, 1968. “The Affair at Carrizal.” Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Vol. 18, No. 4 24-39. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4517303.

White, Walter Francis. 2001. Rope & Faggot: a Biography of Judge Lynch. Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001. https://bltc-alexanderstreet-com.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/BLTC/hub.py?type=getdoc&docid=S8345-D005.

Wikipedia.org. 2018. William_Harvey_Carney. 12 11. /wiki/William_Harvey_Carney#/media/File:William_Harvey_Carney_c1864.jpg.

Willis, Deborah. 2017. “The Black Civil War Soldier: Conflict and Citizenship.” Journal of American Studies, 51 (2) 285—323.

Wilmington Morning Star. 2018. The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, New Hanover, North Carolina),25 Jul 1918, Thu, Page 5. 11 12. https://www.newspapers.com/image/54550584/?terms=Henry%2BJohnson#.

Wilson, Woodrow. 2018. “How America Entered the Great War.” Library of Congress. 11 17. https://www.loc.gov/law/help/digitized-books/world-war-i-declarations/united-states.php.

Wintz, Cary D., and Paul Finkelman. 2004. Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. New York : Routledge.

Wisconsin, Semi-Weekly . 1863. Semi-Weekly Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin) · 31 Jul 1863, Fri ·pg.2. 07 31. https://www.newspapers.com/image/8396731/?terms=54th%2BMassachusetts%2C%2BFort%2BWagner#.

Figures

Figure 1. Neuman. 2018. The Revolutionary War- The Ethiopian Regiment. 11 18. https://sites.google.com/site/afrowithneuman/the-revolutionary-war. 3

Figure 2. Neuman. 2018. The Revolutionary War- The Ethiopian Regiment. 11 18. https://sites.google.com/site/afrowithneuman/the-revolutionary-war………………………………………………4

Figure 3. Independence Hall Association. 2018. Octavius Catto: Remembering a Forgotten Hero. 12 07. http://www.ushistory.org/catto/chap4.html. 7

Figure 4. Wikipedia.org. 2018. William_Harvey_Carney. 12 11. /wiki/William_Harvey_Carney#/media/File:William_Harvey_Carney_c1864.jpg. 8

Figure 5. Alexandriava.gov. 2015. Fighting for Freedom, Black Union Soldiers of the Civil War. 10 25. https://www.alexandriava.gov/historic/fortward/default.aspx?id=40018. 9

Figure 6. Nebraska.gov. 2018. Buffalo Soldiers Photographs. 11 07. https://history.nebraska.gov/blog/buffalo-soldiers-photographs.. 11

Figure 7. Harper’s Weekly . 2018. Harper’s Weekly Vol. 42. 2181 pg. 1014. 11 04. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=pst.000020241148;view=1up;seq=369, p. 1014) 14

Figure 8. National Archives . 2018. America Enters the Great War. 11 17. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2017/spring/wwi-america-enters. 17

Figure 9. Public Domain. 2018. Birth of a Nation Theatrical Poster. 12 09. /wiki/The_Birth_of_a_Nation#/media/File:Birth_of_a_Nation_theatrical_poster.jpg. 19

Figure 10. The Atlanta Constitution . 2018. The Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) 05 Dec 1915, Sun pg. 12. 11 08. https://www.newspapers.com/image/34115181/?terms=Klan. 21

Figure 11. Public Domain, and Kevin Bair ed. 2018. Film clip of The Birth of a Nation. 12 09. https://youtu.be/sdmHVrD5ePY. 21

Figure 12. Nebraska.gov. 2018. Buffalo Soldiers Photographs. 11 07. https://history.nebraska.gov/blog/buffalo-soldiers-photographs. 23

Figure 13. Fraser, Colin. 2018. Henry Johnson, Known as the “Black Death” – America’s First World War Hero. 11 12. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-i/black-death-henry-johnson-hero.html. 24

Figure 14. The News Journal. 1919. The News Journal (Wilmington, Delaware) 15 Feb 1919, Sat. Page 7. 02 15. Accessed 12 05, 2018. https://www.newspapers.com/image/161098307/?terms=Henry%2BJohnson. 26

Figure 15. Scott, E. J. (1919). Scott’s Offical History Of The American Negro In Yhe World War . Chicago: Homewood Press. https://archive.org/details/scottsofficialhi00scot_0/page/n13. 27

Figure 16. Diversity, Army. 2015. World War I- The 369th Infantry Comes Home. 12 06. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upwzJ-IpCcQ. 27

Figure 17. Tennessee State Library & Archives. 2018. Our Colored Heroes. 12 05. http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15138coll18/id/2332. 28

Figure 18 National Archives. 2018. SGT. HENRY Johnson – American Hero of World War I – An Inspiration to our Fighting Men Today. 12 05. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/535680. 28

Figure 19. Stokes, Melvyn. 2007. D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation : a History of “the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time”. New York: Oxford University Press. 32

NOTES

  1. Owens, R. (2004). Medal of Honor: Historical Facts & Figure. Paducha: Turner Publishing Company.
  2. Lanning, M. L. (2002). African Americans in the Revolutionary War. New York: Citadel. Pg. 43
  3. Lanning, African Americans, 43
  4. Schama, S. (2006). Rough Crossings: The Slaves, the British, and the American Revolution 1st U.S. ed. New York: Ecco.
  5. Neuman. (2018, 11 18). The Revolutionary War- The Ethiopian Regiment. Retrieved from Afro With Neuman. https://sites.google.com/site/afrowithneuman: https://sites.google.com/site/afrowithneuman/the-revolutionary-war.
  6. Neuman, The Revolutionary War.
  7. Gray, E. G. (2013). The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Pg. 259
  8. Rhode Island General Assembly 1778. (2018, 10 26). Act creating the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, also known as the “Black Regiment, 02_14_1778 Primary Source Document Transcription. Retrieved from
  9. Continental Congress. (1909). United States. Continental Congress. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. XIII. Washington: U.S. Govt. print off., 190437., 397
  10. Gray, E. G. (2013). The Oxford Handbook of the American Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 256
  11. U.S. Army Office of History. (2018, 12 4). Two Chiefs of Engineers were Medal of Honor Recipients? Retrieved from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Did you know? http://www.hq.usace.army.mil: /history/Vignettes/Vignette_78.htm
  12. U.S. Gov. National Archives. (2018, 12 04). The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863. Retrieved from National Archives and Records Administration: https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/american_originals_iv/sections/nonjavatext_emancipation.html
  13. Lincoln, A. (2018, 11 03). The President’s letter to the Hon. James C. Conkling … Aug. 26, 1863. Retrieved from Internet Archive. https://archive.org : https://archive.org/details/presidentsletter00linc/page/n1
  14. Holland, F. M. (1895). Frederick Douglass: the colored orator. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, Pg.301. https://archive.org/details/cu31924032775318/page/n7.
  15. Wisconsin, Semi-Weekly . (1863, 07 31). Semi-Weekly Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin) · 31 Jul 1863, Fri ·pg.2. Retrieved from Newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/8396731/?terms=54th%2BMassachusetts%2C%2BFort%2BWagner#
  16. Henig, G. S. (June 2009). “Glory at Battery Wagner.” . Civil War Times, vol. 48, no. 3, pp. 36–39. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=38697833&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  17. Kuryla, P. (2018, 12 04). 54th Regiment. Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/54th-Massachusetts-Regiment
  18. PBS.org. (2018, 11 03). Judgement Day. Retaliation in camp 1864 Part 4 1831-1865. Retrieved from www.pbs.org/: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3082.html
  19. Fleetwood, C. A. (2018, 11 03). The Diary of Sargant Major Christian A. Fleetwood U.S. Colored Infantry Fourth Regiment, Company G . Retrieved from National Humanities Center.nationalhumanitiescenter.org:http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/maai/identity/text7/fleetwooddiary.pdf
  20. Fleetwood, C. A. (1895). The Negro as a Soldier. Washington, D.C.: Howard Univesity Print. 15
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Kuryla, P. (2018, 12 04). 54th Regiment. Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/54th-Massachusetts-Regiment
  24. Owens, R. (2004). Medal of Honor: Historical Facts & Figure. Paducha: Turner Publishing Company. 31
  25. Schubert, F. N. (1997). Black Valor : Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources.
  26. Ibid. 65
  27. Ibid.
  28. Schubert, F. N. (1997). Black Valor : Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898. Wilmington, Del.:Scholarly Resources. 96
  29. Ibid.
  30. Owens, R. (2004). Medal of Honor: Historical Facts & Figure. Paducha: Turner Publishing Company.51
  31. Cornell Law School. (2018, 12 07). Plessy v. Ferguson. Retrieved from Cornell Law School LegalInformation Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu:https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/163/537
  32. Cornell Law School. (2018, 12 07). Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Retrieved from Cornell Law School.Legal Information Institute : https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/brown_v_board_of_education_%281954%29
  33. Schubert, F. N. (1997). Black Valor : Buffalo Soldiers and the Medal of Honor, 1870-1898. Wilmington, Del.:Scholarly Resources.
  34. Schubert, Black Valor.
  35. Ibid. 155.
  36. Schubert, F. N. (2018, 11 07). Buffalo Soldiers at San Juan Hill from -1998 Conference of Army Historians in Bethesda, Maryland. Retrieved from History.army.mil. https://history.army.mil:https://history.army.mil/documents/spanam/BSSJH/Shbrt-BSSJH.htm.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid. 36.
  39. Livingston, Rebecca. 2018. Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines of the Spanish-American War. The Legacy of USS Maine. 11 07. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1998/spring/spanish-american-war-1.html.
  40. PBS.org. (2018, 11 03). Judgement Day. Retaliation in camp 1864 Part 4 1831-1865. Retrieved from www.pbs.org/: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3082.htm
  41. Livingston, R. (2018, 11 07). Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines of the Spanish-American War. The Legacy of USS Maine. Retrieved from National Archives. www.archives.gov: https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1998/spring/spanish-american-war-1.html
  42. PBS.org. (2018, 11 03). Judgement Day. Retaliation in camp 1864 Part 4 1831-1865. Retrieved from www.pbs.org/: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3082.htm
  43. Goode, W. (1899). The “Eighth Illinois”. Chicago : Blakely Printing.https://archive.org/details/eighthillinois00good/page/n5. 173.
  44. Ibid. 172-173.
  45. Hanna, C. W. (2010). African American Recipients of the Medal of Honor: A Biographical Dictionary, Civil War through Vietnam War . Jefferson North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company Inc. 3.
  46. Naval History and Heritage Command. (2018, 12 04). Navy Medal of Honor: Spanish-American War 1898. Retrieved from Naval History and Heritage Command. https://www.history.navy.mil:https://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/heritage/awards/decorations/medal-of-honor/spanish american-war-medal-of-honor-recipients.html
  47. Strachan, H. (2005). The First World War. New York: Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 64.
  48. Wilson, W. (2018, 11 17). How America Entered the Great War. Retrieved from Library of Congress: https://www.loc.gov/law/help/digitized-books/world-war-i-declarations/united-states.php
  49. Bryan, J. L. (2018, 12 09). Fighting For Respect: African-American Soldiers in WWI . Retrieved from Armyhistory.org. https://armyhistory.org: https://armyhistory.org/fighting-for-respect-african-american-soldiers-in-wwi/
  50. Pilgrim, D. (2018, 12 04). What was Jim Crow. Retrieved from Jim Crow Museum Ferris StateUniveristy : https://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm#
  51. Brettle, A. (2017 Apr [cited 2018 Dec 4];29 (2)). Struggling to Realize a Vast Future: The Civil War as a Contest over the Relative Priorities of Political Liberty and Economic Prosperity. Journal of Policy History [Internet]., 67–88. Available from: http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=122424605&site=ehost-live&scope=site. 270
  52. Ibid.
  53. Corbett P. Scott, D. (2018, 12 04). The Antebellum South, 1800-1860. Retrieved from Brewminate.com. https://brewminate.com : h/the-antebellum-south-1800-1860/
  54. Jackson, K. T. (1967). The Ku Klux Klan in the city, 1915-1930. New York: Oxford University Press. 148-150
  55. Stokes, M. (2007). D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation : a History of “the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time”. New York: Oxford University Pres,. 233.
  56. United States Senate. (2018, 12 05). Landmark Legislation: The Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871. Retrievedfrom United States Senate: https://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/EnforcementActs.htm.
  57. Gibson, R. (2015, 12 05). The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950.Retrieved from Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute:http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/1979/2/79.02.04.x.html#b
  58. White, W. F. (2001). Rope & Faggot: a Biography of Judge Lynch. Notre Dame, Ind: University of NotreDame Press, 2001. https://bltc-alexanderstreet-com.proxy1.library.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/BLTC/hub.py?type=getdoc&docid=S8345-D005, 112-113.
  59. Glass, E. L. (1921). The history of the Tenth Cavalry, 1866-1921. Tucson, Ariz.: Acme Printing Company:https://archive.org/details/historyoftenthca00glasrich/page/90.
  60. Wharfield, H. B. (Autumn, 1968). The Affair at Carrizal. Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Vol. 18, No. 4, 24-39. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4517303. 37.
  61. Library of Congress. (2018, 11 12). African American Odyssey – World War I and Postwar Society. Retrieved from Memory Library of Congress. https://memory.loc.gov: https://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/exhibit/aopart7.html
  62. Jamieson, J. A. (1919). Complete History of the Colored Soldiers In the World War: Authentic Story of the Greatest War of Civilized Times and What the Colored Man Did to Uphold Democracy and Liberty. . New York City: Bennett & Churchill.
  63. Ibid.
  64. Ibid.
  65. Jamieson, J. A. (1919). Complete History of the Colored Soldiers In the World War: Authentic Story of the Greatest War of Civilized Times and What the Colored Man Did to Uphold Democracy and Liberty. . New York City: Bennett & Churchill. 22-24.
  66. Jamieson, J. A. (1919). Complete History of the Colored Soldiers In the World War: Authentic Story of the Greatest War of Civilized Times and What the Colored Man Did to Uphold Democracy and Liberty. . New York City: Bennett & Churchill. 24.
  67. Wilmington Morning Star. (2018, 11 12). The Wilmington Morning Star (Wilmington, New Hanover, North Carolina),25 Jul 1918, Thu, Page 5. Retrieved from Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com: https://www.newspapers.com/image/54550584/?terms=Henry%2BJohnson# 5.
  68. Tennessee State Library & Archives. (2018, 12 05). Our Colored Heroes. Retrieved from Tennessee State Library & Archives: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15138coll18/id/2332
  69. Army.mil . (2018, 12 05). Medal of Honor: Sergeant Henry Johnson. Retrieved from Army.mil Features. https://www.army.mil: https://www.army.mil/medalofhonor/johnson/
  70. Wintz, C. D. (2004). Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance. New York : Routledge.
  71. Fraser, C. (2018, 11 12). Henry Johnson, Known as the “Black Death” – America’s First World War Hero. Retrieved from War History Online. https://www.warhistoryonline.com : https://www.warhistoryonline.com/world-war-ii/massacre-at-oradour-sur_glane-m.html
  72. Goode, W. (1899). The “Eighth Illinois”. Chicago : Blakely Printing. https://archive.org/details/eighthillinois00good/page/n5.
  73. Bishop, C. M. (1925). “Memorandum for the Chief of Staff Regarding Employment of Negro Man Power in War, November 10, 1925,”. Washington D.C. President’s Official Files 4245-G: Archives of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu: U.S. Goverment – War Department.
  74. Webb, Schuyler C. Captain, and Master Sergeant William J. Herrmann. 2018. Historical Overview of Racism in the Military. 12 05. /dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a488652.pdf.
  75. Hanna, C. W. (2010). African American Recipients of the Medal of Honor: A Biographical Dictionary, Civil War through Vietnam War . Jefferson North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company Inc. 3.
  76. Webb, S. C. (2018, 12 05). Historical Overview of Racism in the Military. Retrieved from https://apps.dtic.mil: /dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a488652.pdf
  77. Stokes, M. (2007). D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation: a History of “the Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time”. New York: Oxford University Press. 250.
  78. Albany Times Union Staff. (2018, 12 06). Ceremony Marks 100th Anniversary of Henry Johnson’s Heroism. Retrieved from New York State Museum : http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/research-collections/state-history/notes/ceremony-marks-100th-anniversary-henry-johnsons-heroism
  79. Arlington Cemetery. (2018, 12 06). Henry-Johnson. Retrieved from Arlington Cemetery.net. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.ne: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/henry-johnson.htm
  80. Shear, M. D. (2018, 12 06). Two World War I Soldiers Posthumously Receive Medal of Honor. Retrieved from New York Times : https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/03/us/two-world-war-i-soldiers-to-posthumously-receive-medal-of-honor.html
  81. Rhode Island General Assembly 1778. (2018, 10 26). Act creating the 1st Rhode Island Regiment, alsoknown as the “Black Regiment, 02_14_1778 Primary Source Document Transcription. Retrieved fromRhode Island State Archives: https://sos.ri.gov/assets/downloads/documents/Black-Regiment.pdf