this should be taught in school
the 369th infantry regiment
The 369th. Nicknamed the Harlem Hellfighters, (The Germans named them Hellfighters because they fought like hell, never lost ground and never had any men captured. One third of the 369th died in combat). were the first all-black regiment to fight in World War I. Even before they left for duty, the Hellfighters had to endure the racist taunts, jeers and violent attacks from their fellow white soldiers on the Camp Whitman base. The regiment had arrived in France in early 1918 and was trained for several months in French military camps. By May they were fighting on the Front lines, where they spent the next six months— longer than any other American unit during the war. The entire unit was given the distinguished Croix de Guerre by the French national government for their service.
But their heroism and valor were never recognized back home.
Despite the sacrifices and courage displayed by African American soldiers during the war, they nevertheless encountered a virulent backlash of white racism upon their return to the United States. A number of newly discharged soldiers- still wearing their uniforms- were lynched by white mobs. The post-war landscape was rife with racial and economic tension. The demobilization of the troops was met with severe and rising inflation and unemployment. At the war’s end, approximately 9 million people were employed in industries pertaining to the overseas effort. The war effort had provided openings for the migration of blacks into urban manufacturing jobs, but with the war’s end job scarcity fueled the notion among working class white workers that blacks were taking their places in the labor force.
Racial violence erupted in the summer of 1919, in what Harlem Renaissance poet and intellectual James Weldon Johnson would call “Red Summer.” On 27 July, in the Northern city of Chicago, Eugene Williams was drowned by white swimmers who threw rocks at the young African American boy for swimming too close to a white beach. The black community was outraged after police refused to arrest those responsible for Williams’ death. Rioting erupted throughout the city, and for the next five days, black neighborhoods were the sites of terror, burning and lynching. By the beginning of August, the city lay in disrepair, 38 dead, 500 injured, and over 1,000 black people homeless.
The fear of organized black labor was the catalyst for more racial violence and terror in Elaine, Arkansas. In early October, as black farmers and sharecroppers met to organize a union, a white mob swarmed down upon them in attempts to break up the meeting. The violence that ensued left over 100 black farmers dead and their farms destroyed. Throughout the South, independent black farmers and unions became the targets of racist violence and lynching.
Throughout the summer and fall, 24 other race riots erupted within American cities, all instigated by white acts of violence. In the Washington, D.C. riots, whites were shocked to find that black urbanites quickly organized collective resistance and militantly stood their ground. Indeed the war had meant something to black Americans; it meant that if they were to support the fight for democracy abroad, they would wage one for equality at home.
-Amistad Digital Resource