Military history of African Americans  

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  • Military history of African Americans

World War I

The U.S. armed forces remained segregated through World War I. Still, many African Americans eagerly volunteered to join the Allied cause following America's entry into the war. By the time of the armistice with Germany on November 1918, over 350,000 African Americans had served with the American Expeditionary Force in on the Western Front.

Most African American units were largely relegated to support roles and saw little combat. Still, African Americans played a major role in America's war effort. One of the most distinguished units was the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the "Harlem Helfighters," which was on the front lines for six months, longer then any other American unit in the war.

Corporal Freddie Stowers of the 371st Infantry Regiment was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor —the only African American to be so honored for actions in World War I. During action in France, Stowers had led an assault on German trenches, continuing to lead and encourage his men even after being twice wounded. Stowers died from his wounds, but his men continued the fight and eventually defeated the German troops. Stowers was recommended for the Medal of Honor shortly after his death, but the nomination was, according to the Army, misplaced. Many, believing that the recommendation was intentionally ignored due to institutional racism in the Armed Forces. In 1990, under pressure from Congress, the Department of the Army launched an investigation. Based on findings from this investigation, the Army Decorations Board approved the award of the Medal of Honor to Stowers. On April 24, 1991—73 years after he was killed in action—Stowers' two surviving sisters received the Medal of Honor from President George H.W. Bush at the White House. The success of the investigation leading to Stowers' Medal of Honor later sparked a similar review that resulted in seven African Americans being awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in World War II.

Units

Some of the most notable African American units which served in World War I were:




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Military history of African Americans" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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