An African-American soldier in a training camp, 1917. Most of the American army’s training sites were in the deep South, where armed black men threatened Jim Crow white supremacy.
The mayor of Spartanburg, South Carolina, protested in the New York times that black soldiers, “with their Northern ideas about race equality, they will probably
expect to be treated like white men. I can say right here that they will
not be treated as anything except negroes.” The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce also wrote in that “It is a great mistake to send Northern negroes down here, for they do not understand our attitude.”
Sunday night’s episode of @watchmen showed a little-known #WW1 bit of history. German propaganda flyers were shown dropping with messages that were part of a concerted effort to demoralize black U.S. soldiers by reminding them of harsh racism back home.
To the colored soldiers of the U.S. Army.
Hallo boys, what are you doing over here? Fighting the Germans? Why?
Have they ever done you any harm? Of course, some white folks and the
lying English-American press told you that the Germans ought to be wiped
out for the sake of humanity and democracy. What is Democracy? Personal
Freedom, all citizens enjoying the same rights socially and before the
law! Do you enjoy the same rights as white people do in America. the
land of Freedom and Democracy? Or aren’t you rather treated over there
as second class citizens? Can you go into a rest urant where white
people dine, can you get a seat in a theater where white people sit, can
you get a Pullman seat or berth in a rail roadcar or can you even ride,
in the South, in the same street car with white people? And how about
the law? Is lynching and the most horrible cruelties connected therewith
a lawful proceeding in a democratic country?
this is entirely different in Germany, where they do like colored
people, where they treat them as Gentlemen and not as second class
citizens. They enjoy exactly the same social privileges as every white
man, and quite a number of colored people have mighty fine positions in
business in Berlin and other big German cities.
fight the Germans only for the benefit of the Wall-street robbers to
protect the millions they have lent to the English, French, and
Italians? You have been made the tool of the egotistic and rapacious
rich in England and America. and there is nothing in the whole game for
you but broken bones, horrible wounds, spoiled health or—death. No
satisfaction whatsoever will you get out of this unjust war. You have
never seen Germany, so you are fools if you allow people to teach you to
hate it. Come over to see for yourself. Let those do the fighting who
make profit out of this war; don’t allow them to use you as cannon food.
To carry the gun in their defence is not an honor but a shame. Throw it
away and come over to the German lines. You will find friends who will
help you along.
An American and Mexican soldiers guarding the border in Ambos Nogalesduring the Mexican Revolution. The city was the site of two separate engagements in the Border War, a series of military engagements along the border during the Revolution.