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tv   African Americans and World War I  CSPAN  December 28, 2017 2:11am-3:11am EST

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questions about immigration reform and the dream act. create a video stralting why it's important. open to all middle school and high school students. grade 6 through 12. $100,000 in cash prizes will be awarded. grand prize of $5,000 will go to the student or team with the best over all entry. the deadline is january 18. get details on our web site. student >> american history tv continues on c-span 3. next, a discussion on how world war i impacted african americans. university of minnesota professor sage matthew believes that african americans promise of a better life because of military service was largely denied by the reality of gym
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cr jim crow america. this discussion is about an hour. >> the national museum and memorial with the world war i commission. we produce an education news letter that focuses on the best resources available to teachers. and learners. both those are created here like the videos of these lectures which will later be available on c-span. but you tube. this is your first symposium. you can go back to the channel and see some of the previous lectures as well. we focus on there's really excellent educational resources of some partners like the national archives. stanford history education group. and our most recent news letter addressed americans all. and how in the diverse nation groups and individuals affected the war. and were effected by it.
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associate professor of history at the university of minnesota will be speaking to just that. african americans and the promise of 1917. doctor matthew specializes in 20th century american and african american history. with an emphasis on race. war, globalization, immigration. social movement and political resistance. keep your eyes peeled she has a new book that will be coming out. the glory ov their deeds a global history of black soldiers and the great war era. a former fellow at the center for research in black culture. harvard institute among others. she is also graced the stage of the famous fits gerald theater. thank you minnesota historical society. so please help me welcome her to our stage. this afternoon. dr. sage matthew.
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>> good afternoon. thank you for being here. thank you for that wonderful introduction. i'm new to the club. so i have to embrace the reality i can't get as much done without them. i think most people really want glasses until they actually need them. and it's not so fun. so my name is sage matthew. and this afternoon i will be moving at quite the pace. so that i can squeeze everything in. our 45 minutes and have plenty of time for questions. i welcome them. so if they pop up as i speak do write them down. we are here african americans and the promise of 1917. one of the enduring myths about the great war both at the time and in contemporary literature is the idea that african americans didn't in fact think very much about or care about
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world war i. or at the least they didn't until late 1917 or 1918. and that is absolutely not true. part of this appeal of believing that african americans hadn't thought about the war fits into the notion they were too simple or too naval gazing. to really care about what was happening abroad. in point of fact, african americans had been writing extensively about the great war. as early as 1914. even before the war itself breaks out. they're already starting to keep an eye on the what's happening and reporting about it. and regularly. in the african american press. before i move any further i want you to remember that first and foremost african americans are americans. something that we forget far too
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frequently. so this afternoon i hope to hit on these main areas. first the import of the war for african americans. how they thought about and talked about the war. globally. how for them it was then a local war. this idea of a french utopia and and rapture with france. and the cost of war for african americans. what do i mean when i say they are first and foremost american? well like other americans, they too wondered whether peace was a viable path. they wondered and questioned what exactly was their duty to as americans but also as african americans? did they have actual duty in this imperial conflict between european kissing cousins? how will the war should they support it should we as a nation get into it?
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how will that war derail the civil rights work that they were involved in even before 1914. this would have included in particular challenges to jim crow laws. and by 1915 african americans are poring resources and money, their attention, educated young people. into fighting in particular the grandfather clause. and obstruction to the vote. in addition to these questions. of course. african americans are really consumed by the pivotal importance of jim crow in american life. it's important for us to remember that by the way the time the great war begins in europe, jim crow this set of laws and practices that reinforce segregation.
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he's about 20 years old. right? so we're talking about this first generation of african american men who are born and raised under the jim crow jack boot. if you will. and what then do we make of them. is this the assessment of the racist future? the other thing that african americans are thinking about are things like the reality that we're rounding the 3 hundredth r anniversary of the first encounter with the americas. they're thinking carefully and writing about 50 years since the end of the civil war. and some respects reconstruction and its failed possibilities. they're talking about looking at the end of slavery in puerto rico. talking about to a lesser extent but it's happening. the end of the war of 1812. and 1814. right.
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where there were promises. especially concerned with american encroachment in the caribbean. especially in the case of haiti. they're thinking both locally and globally. and probably the thing that dominates concern in this era is the spread of racialized violence. and we talk about lynching. and it's apparent in terms of how much of a problem this is. how it comes to define unfairly an entire region of the country. when it's happening lnl everywhere. in the country. the additional practice of racial terrorism that deeply concerns african americans in fact terrorizes them is that bizarre deeply disturbing practice of lighting african americans on fire. not just their property. so arson is a problem.
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but lighting black people in particular on fire. and so again these are the kind of things that we're talking about. therefore an important backdrop for how then african americans will compare and contrast. their position with what's happening in the rest of the world. even before african americans suited up for war. they were aware of other black people involved in the great war. in particular african soldiers who are normally referred to as regardless of where they're from. they'll all be called sharp shooters. not by african americans but people all over the world. so they're concerned about them and black people in the caribbean. who are now as a result of being part of the british empire drawn into the war. and canadians.
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these men and women are known by a term that web coins. the man on the right. they're called souliers without swords. while this is a term that will become that will come into greater use after the war, it really captures this sense of urgency for african americans. yesterday doctor talked about how african american organizations like the naacp are in the stage of infancy. it's important for us to remember that so too are african american newspapers. right? and so for these men and women who are professionally trained. college educated. usually elite college educated. the newspaper will become an important way of not only legitimizing and explaining the war. but also legitimizing and explaining their professional
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voices. right. as intel chul activists. soldiers without swords. harvard educated. he becomes a thorn in wilsons side. because he holds the president's feet to the fire. he is in particular known for opposing or at least questioning the terms under when african americans will enlist in the war. but also really coordinating an international campaign. to quash the release of birth of a nation. the homage to the clan. that comes out in 1915. one of my favorite quotes by on the war and he writes this before the united states enters the war. officially he says absolute loyalty in arms and civil duties
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need not for a moment lead us to e bait our just complaints. and just demands. so for african americans lilk other americans. they will say against the accusations that they lack patriotism. they lack a robust understanding of a citizen ship duty to their nation. he will say instead no it is because i understand the true meaning of patriotism that i say that my country must listen to our urgent needs and must respond in exchange for our support. this is exactly what women are doing. right? and let's be clear. that war is a perfect time for concession. at least ask for them. because you're needed. it's true. it's totally true. another person who is i describe her as a little lady who packs a
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lot of punch. who had in fact made the case for the urgency and the alarming practice of lynching listening before her male counter parts understood this problem. wells is another such journalist who is writing about the war. and writing about this crisis. both moral and physical. for african americans. now in the case of wells and debois in particular. it's important for us to remember they have connections over seas. they went to school over seas or lectured over seas. and they're able to tap into those alliances to out what's h europe, to find out what's can -- you know, what humanitarian responses might be needed and to bring that information back to african-american communities. so this next picture is of
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african american journalists who are gathering at a conference in washington, d.c. and trying to outline what will be the key issues that they press with the president. you'll notice that there are in the front row some french soldiers who are already there and some french diplomats who were involved in this war. w.e.b. de boise are right at the center of this photograph. this meeting proves so contentious. woodrow wilson has one of his many conniptions and decides that he will no longer have african americans come to the white house to air their grievances. and the man could hold a grudge because by the treaty, negotiations, he also refuses to hear or have an audience with de boise in particular, but african americans at large.
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so my second point was this question of a global war and what does it mean for african americans? this political cartoon captures perfectly, for me, how african americans thought globally and then used this global language to reflect back on the case of the african-american experience. so this is from the crisis magazine, and the script that was on the bottom and too small four see i just retyped, voice of the congo. if you only left us our hands, albert, re-we could be we could to you now. so this, to me, is very powerful because it makes clear both an interest for african americans in these global debates, an absolute understanding of what's happening, an indictment of what was happening in the belgium congo before. but also a warning for americans of what could happen here in
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their own time of need, right? so there are a few countries that african americans talked about repeatedly leading up to 1917 and used these as platforms for a subblah medication of their own concerns. so it's serving double duty. in the case ever belgium, african-american intellectual activists would say in some respects what the germans are doing to the bell jums was a comeuppance that was long overdue given what belgium had been doing and in some respects had continued do in the belgium congo and that this kind of brutal exploitation that reserved for the congolys was the very essence of a belgium moral and spiritual decay.
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and that is what awaited americans if they did not pull back from their commitment to racialized terrorism. for many african americans, south africa is in a close second especially given its crying commitment to apartheid. so we see a lot of comparable editorials calling attention to the brutality that south africans and especially the separatists in south africa are starting to do in that little pocket at the bottom of africa. poland and ireland are frequent guests in african american newspapers in part because ferns will hold on to those two countries in particular as kind of a hope for an independent, successful independent future for otherwise oppressed
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europeans. and sometimes in the case of poland thail they'll ta poland they'll talk about europe's negros. so it is in some instances ethnic es splishl in the case of poland. russia. russia is very important for african americans prior to 1917, both because, again, the patterns of pograms that occurred reading up to the war and the revolution in '17, this becomes a place where it seems possible to top top -- topple t impossible. and african americans take up the genocide as early as the
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1890s, maybe a little earlier than that. i have a separate piece on that in particular, but there are so many echoes between the experiences of african americans and armenians, including this, you know, bizarre practice of lighting people on fire. in the case of all of these countries, african americans pull very limited resources and create either programs or campaigns to help these imperilled europeans. so for example by 1917 african americans will have a campaign to raise non send enough baby food to take care of belgium babies for three months. they will pledge by 1917 to raise $1 million for african or fans and their widows. so, again, there are all -- there's this constant barrage in
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the newspapers of what's happening to african soldiers over there. they're in artillery units, machine gun units. so while the u.s. is still debating whether african americans should be part of the war in 1817, the african americans will way the french and the british have been doing this for three years, why are we still talking about it. there's a bizarre kafs a german turned austrian fanatic who wins the iron cross for the austrians in 1917 and it's an example of what can happen when you take jim crow out of equation. so we're talking about a population that is overwhelmingly working in a cash-poor sector, right, cotton farming. and to take the few dollars that they do get when they get them and to make the decision to
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spend them on in effect an abstract concept, african soldiers all the way over there. and to make that decision as early as 1914 is, for me, another way that the war is something that african americans start to contemplate a lot earlier. and, of course, african americans will talk kabout the caribbean as a cautionary tale because they believe that the united states is, in fact, sort of stretching itself into the caribbean trying to make it yet another deep south under the distraction of war. so haiti, puerto rico, even the panama canal zone become these hotly contested racial spaces. and african americans think that this is only the start. the attraction are the deep ports that are available in some of these islands like the danish west indys, like st. kitts for
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example. but there's another problem. that's the british. and at this very time, canada was making the hard sell to great britain to have ray caribbean island, ideally jamaica given to them apps a thanks for coming out with this war gift. and we nearly got jamaica as a province by instead got new finland, no fair. but the argument made consistently both in the press and in official military documentation is that canada needed its own deep south. it needed to prove its ma dern knitty by having black people that they could control. and there's a lot of concern over what do with the vote if we have this extra island, because we don't necessarily have a legal jim crow structure like the united states. so african americans are keeping an eye on all these different spaces as the war is unfolding.
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one of those spaces is, of course, france. and where african americans are joining the war before as individuals just like other americans, right? so here we have eugene bullard who joins the lafayette drills mentioned earlier this morning. and what's important here is that african americans are seduced by the same language of patriotic heroism as all other americans. but particular because successes like bullard's give the lie to the core promise offered by jim crow by segregation. and that is that when racial line hold, violently if necessary, blacks and their inescape able infear yortor rit will be confirmed.
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so what's different here with bullard isn't that he's an ace pilot, it's that we see this healthy body decorated with awards. the very embodiment of manliness that's not in a cosmopolitanism, and worse, the french are celebrating him. so this question of black men in uniform will be such a prickly one that after the war we have an uptick in not just black veterans being singled out for attack. we know that some are even lynched in their uniforms. but there are also these small-scale attacks, spitting on them, ripping off parts of their uniforms. the canadians sore distraught by what they see happening in the united states, that they take the added precaution of requiring that their black soldiers take off their uniforms
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before they even board the ships in great britain to come back to the americas. so, again, this spreads beyond simple american borders. images like this would also have been problematic for many in america. these this is the elite calvary and they are working with training with african soldiers that i mentioned earlier. after fan sharp shooters. by war's end, at least 500,000 african soldiers will have served under the french flag alone. that doesn't even yet account for the british, the west indians, the black canadians who also joined the armed forces. so americans enter world war i having already thought about a black marshal experience before
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they reach european shores. here, we see a picture of canada's number two construction battalion which is attached to the forestry corps. what i'd like to say about these guys is you're not looking at canadians. what you're looking at is largely americans. by my calculations, african americans accounted for at least 40% of black men serving under the canadian flag. not that we actually had one at that time. and that doesn't even yet include descendents of african americans who would have come -- whose ancestors came as black loyalists or who came after -- duri and after the war of 1812. this is also an army that has a robust population of west indians. they will float them up to halla fax and then have one shipment across. from what i've seen with charting the borders and when
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these men are coming, they are arriving largely from the detroit area but not exclusively. many of these men are coming from georgia, florida, alabama. and they're citing at the boarder that joining the army is a correction to unemployment spot what does this mean to me? first of all we're getting a concrete remind thaeer that thet migration expanded beyond chicago and cleveland in the way that we normally talk about it. that these men continued seeking work wherever that work was available. if it meant crossing borders then they did. and crossing the border would not have been easy for black people at this time as canada adopted a ban on african american immigration in particular in 1911. it didn't stay on the books for long, but it was there and the spirit of that law never went away so there are all of these,
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you know, shady, to use current street parlance, ways of keeping these men out. what i love is that canadians were not very good at identifying race, though they wanted to be. and so they did. and so they -- they had -- so you see on the enlistment records things like i think he's black but i'm not sure. he looks sal low. and so all the different words that they use has become comical to me and i can decipher them. they'll describe them as yellow, perhaps not well cleaned, right? so that at the end of the summer so that they've tanned and you can't really tell. i mean, my brother would fall in that category. but it points to this desire to identify race but this inability to do it as well as the americans. bizarrely, once the canadians mandate that everyone must serve, then they actually send
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head hunters down into the united states to bring back canadians who had moved, right, and britt and west indians who had moved to the united states and forcibly marched them back into canada to serve. the last thing i want to say, and that's my -- about the canadians is that the reasons cited for not wanting black soldiers are of course comical including my person favorite, they would not look good in kilts because so many fwwere in highland units. one often overlooked way that african americans had been engaging in this war physically and intellectually is that african americans had been cutting across the atlantic since 1914 as muleatiers. the men working ships, mending, carrying for the horses and mules that the british and french were buying by the hundreds of thousands.
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so new orleans and newport news, virginia, were awash in black people, southerners in particular who had not only been keenly aware of this war, but had navigated the submarine infested waters back and forth throughout the months. and there's a great case of a sinking that i can't -- i don't have time to talk about right now, but, again, i spent the summer writing about it. and there's something weird for all of us who are historians. you know, when you find a great story you're so excited and it seems wrong, but you're like i found a sinking, 200 people died, this is going to be great, right. and oops. so, but i was definitely that happy. now, of course the punitive war, right, that's what war meant to african americans before we turned to europe. and the quote under this political cartoon said uncle sam, did you send the eighth
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regiment of illinois to the border to protect this country or to be shot down by texans? right? so you see them cowering behind. so african americans had -- were seasoned soldiers, right? so in fact in the press what you see are these constant references to having been in the war of independence. even the most recent conflict, that they've been in the philippines, that there is no question of their not only their patriotism, but their marshal heroism. and so they found it quite insult n insulting that it took so long for the wilson administration to make some firm decisions. going into the war there were approximately 10,000 career soldiers and another 5,000 african americans who were national guardsmen. however, especially after the mutiny, as it was called, in houston, the united states does the exact opposite of what would seem logical. rather than take the men who had
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field experience, right, the very few american soldiers who had field expenrience, who even had experience with the debacle of our aerial warfare in mexico, rather than send them to france as the first wave, we in fact send them to the deep parts of the philippines and the deep parts of hawaii in order to quell this concern that if you taught black men to shoot, the first thing they would do would be to turn those guns on to white people, right? so for african americans, this is and added insult because they feel as though they are, in fact, well positioned to serve their country and in the case of the punitive expedition, pershing had singled them out as his right-hand men, if you will. there had even been some attempts at informal integration during the punitive expedition.
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not something to brag about but pershing had turned the other cheek when it came to integrated brothels in mexico. he will swing to the total opposite when it comes to france. there were for african americans also some heroes, right, like here charles young, a west point graduate. for most he seemed like the logical choice as a black officer who could then lead ideally african american, but whoever else wanted to work with him into battle. and of course we know that the war department would have none of it, they forcibly retire him and one of the concessions that we get instead is this officer training camp in for the des moines, iowa, a location selected the war department said, because it was in the middle of nowhere were 400 acres locked -- landlocked in iowa. that iowa, because it had no people, had no racial tensions.
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and that because they were in the middle of nowhere that would, in principle, also make it harder for white women to get to to these men. so this officer training camp because the embodiment of that hope and promise for african americans in 1917. what's important for us to also remember here is that it's not just soldiers, this is also a camp where nearly 1,000 african american medical professionals are being trained and hoping for a commission, though none will get to be of the medical corps will be in charge of black troops. now, jim crow requires commitment and resources. so, this is a photograph of african american dentists who are being prepared to send over to france. when you're talking about a country that has only 478 black dentists for 10 million people, the impact of a single loss is
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felt greatly on that community. in the 50 years of howard university's existence, it had graduated roughly 4,500 people and half of all of the doctors in the country. howard was the university that sent the most medical doctors into this war. nearly 20%. so the impact on the cost for african americans is great. and for them then it's a measure of their commitment and contribution to the nation. so, black fraternities had the historically black colleges and universities are the first to respond to this call to war and, in particular, this calling of the nation for officers. but women, of course, respond as well. and while the red cross initially banned black women, once the inflew wensa outbreak
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begins and it begins earlier in the united states, they realize they are going to need help. and so they finally admit 2,000 -- or they ask for 2,000 black women. as with white women, these were not just nurses, but they were also as part of that talented tenth, that rare educated crust of american society, these were women who spoke french, who spoke german, and therefore were also translators, cultural conduits and far more important given their small numbers. in the end of the red cross will have 16, 16 black nurses in france for 50,000 soldiers. so what we get as our starting point for 1917 is a replication of a rogue nation carefully crafted since jim crow,
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represent indicated overseas, black white, black white, black white, and not necessarily together. even the hostess huts or hostess houses that the ymca set up overseas were separated by race. we have here, again, a photograph of black women who were at that officer training camp in iowa. and here we have motor corps women who are driving around helping wounded soldiers as they find them. we know that there was a lot of concern about what to do with these black men socially, right? because if nothing else, the women are white in france and the french are looser in every kind of way, so we have a lot of these photographs reassuring americans that the disruption -- the language they used at the time was that we can't let the french ruin our negros.
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but it's actually very large this concern about a ruin because it's about a sexual ruin, it's about an ideological or political ruin. they're especially concerned in 1917 that communists will get to the black soldiers, especially disgruntled russians who are still stuck in france. and that they will start having all of these ideas. we know that during the st. louis riots there's also a concern of not just germans, but also japanese and mexican getting into african-american minds. why are we concerned about the ruin of our black people? it's in part because they're on the move. they are voting with their feet, right? by leaving regions where it is no longer feasible to maintain a healthy lifestyle. so we always think of this great migration as being forced by a panic over racial violence, and of course that's true.
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but it's also because bow weevil and floods and other types of -- the collapse of cotton prices have made a barely sustainable life altogether impossible. and the army's pay of $30 a month will -- in cash, no less, will be a very sa ductive -- will have it's on sa ductive appeal for people leaving the region. but for all the panic it's important to remember that only about 5% of african americans left the south in 1916. so african americans are still largely southern, rural farmers even into world war i. in fact, this army's ability to pay in cash will be a reason why cited for why african americans could not be excused from service. they'll say the $30 you'll make with us is more than would you have made cotton farming so even if you have dependents you still have to go and do your bit for
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the nation. however -- sorry, i skipped a page here. so here i wanted you to remember that the way that african americans move will be determined by the preexisting networks and paths available to them. so the mississippi and steam ship is still the cheapest way to get out of the south. rail lines and actual roads, so there are several rail lines that go along that yellow vector that you see there. and this is, in part, what speeds that up migration and the ability, then, tror go get thaty in your pocket and buy a ticket for the first time. so this wonderful painting really captures that promise that we're talking about. it's children, it's old people, it's people in top hats and it's people with a rag on their head with the woman through the chicago door on the left. so it's really an opportunity for african americans like
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europeans who were coming here to follow their dream through a migrant experience. however, 19 spen teen 17 is a y extreme violence and these are just five location where's we have race riots between may and late fall of 1917. so precisely as we were asking african americans to die for their country, they're being killed in their country. the one that is best known, of course, is st. louis. it's written about as a labor dispute that unions had been opposing or calling attention to the fact that african americans were being brought in as strike breakers. they respond violently and this is what happens. but in truth it's much more complicated than that. and what's more disturbing is the role that women and children, white women and children had in particular during the e. st. louis crisis and the accounts of ripping
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people's hair out and hitting them with frying pans and so on, it really indicates the level of vitriol. it is estimated that 1500 african americans sped out of the region just during the early days of this race riot. and the response by both the local press and to a certain extent the government, the response of saying that if african americans fought back it's because the germans were whispering in their ears. it isn't something that they would have done all by themselves. they've always been happy with their oppression. if they had an opinion at all. but the thing is that this -- i argue that this turn to a german or japanese or mexican plot actually allows for greater surveillance of african americans, especially african-american intellectuals
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under the espionage act. because unless it's the work of an enemy then there's not as great of an urgency. so this is also a period, then, for african americans where there's a heightened surveillance of their talented tenth, they're most educated, the most vocal and politically alighted. and this, you know, it is received hoover that he cut his tooth keeping track of and trying silence these african americans. but they're no fools. they quickly adopt alternative ways of making themselves heard. this is the silent parade that we get in 1917. now, emphasis here on the word parade. they deliberately do not call it a march so as to ensure that are it's a patriotic act and not a protest. it is a celebration of what is right. that is, the first blood for american independence was shed by a negro respect chris pix
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addicts. a reminder in the various sign ainge that age that we see in this long march of new york of respectability. these are church women, children. they're wearing white, the color of mourning, but also a color of protection so that if shot, if stabbed, you could see it well on the photographs. a strategy that has continued through the civil rights movement of the 1950s. as with other parts of society, african-american children are mobilized in sthu mobilized in support of this war. here we get a news boy and judging by his missing front teeth he's about 6 or so years old, right? so again, a reminder of how young it is. but we have posters, poems, recipes, again reminders of how black women could stretch a dime into a dollar with respect to their food during the war.
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all of the work that's needed. and by the same measure all of the support from those other communities that we ask from other americans. the committee for public information, cpi, run by george kreel, even develops a negro section for pits propaganda and has black form men, black films, black posters, postcards like this one here but meant to make african americans feel as though they are part of an important moment. so douce france, this utopian space, 89% of african americans who went over to france did so as laborers and steve doors in particular. so when you got to france, whether you're an american or
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other allied forces, what you saw in these dock cities were all black people manning them. so in the north they have about 40,000 african americans. a tiny, tiny town on the western dheeft today if you go there's a huge car gill did he poe, they've adopted the footprint that the americans had and they become these contested tur rains where we have early race riots as a result of these encounters on the docks. these are not soft pawed men, right? and they're not even just african americans. in the united states, in the case of philadelphia, for example, 50% of long shoremen were actually jamaican. in the case of miami, they controlled the union and they're bah haiman. so these are the same men who are coming over under the american army and working those
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docks. these posters, these images are in stark contrast to these kind of colorful magazines that are targeted at african americans but children in particular. our prideful soldiers, beautifully healthy looking and manly. this cpi poster produced in 1918 but know here that the african-american soldiers are keeping the germans at bay and actually killing them in the dead center near the flag and nobody's wearing overalls or lifting a crate, right? so this disjunction between the propaganda and what african americans are actually doing is very complicated and the black press certainly addresses it. so when these african americans -- and i'm almost done -- arrive in france, what do they encounter? well, they encounter a continent that has spent a lot of the war thinking about fighting over race, including -- so this one was a post card and it says
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that's what they call a savage over here. [ speaking foreign language ] so this idea that african americans came to a france that welcomed them and was happy to see them and had no particular attachment to race is nonsense because the french had been using their own tropes to both encourage black enlistment and also denigrate their german enemies. the americans will arrive in the aftermath of the disastrous offensive of 1917. and where they suffered very high losses and this idea championed by the general here on the right, this idea that france's secret is its black force, it's black power. the ability to call up an almost
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inexhaustible number of black people from the colony who's would be thrilled do their part for the empire, it's the least that they could do as a thank you gift for france's civilizing mission and the gift of language religion. this is what he actually said. but should his pa attorneyistic palette prove unsatisfying, he then told africans that they had a blood oath to france and it was their turn to step up for a collective blood letting. and, in fact, probably my favorite character of the entire war said that he would rather see ten black men dead to one fren french man. and by 1917 that's the response. not singularly to have black people killed r but in truth the french were like a black body will stop a bullet like anybody else's so we're not that particular. and while we've been waiting for the mens to come, they can catch a bullet as well as anybody else
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as well, right? so we're happy that you're healthy, get in there, right? but it's not some deep passion for americans, per se. at the civilian level we hear much more of this, but we also have plenty of examples of an exploitation of americans as kind of green, right? so there are a lot of reports of overcharging black people for food. the germans had also been very crafty and proving themselves capable of manipulating a race card in this war pointing out that black people were kana balances and that's what we were going to do if put on the western front and they were bar bear rick people's and turning this language of lynching back on to americans and saying why are you fighting for these people? they lynch people who look like you, we do not. you should join our side. so there are already all of these debates about race in europe long before the african
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americans get there. and when they do they fall into some immediately predictable tear stereotypes as the happy music playing people. here we have this man who is sent almost immediately on a 25-city tour to play for sometimes european dignitaries, but often times just for people who are in a hospital and are sick. and, again, in this competition of race, the canadians quickly put a black band together and send them on a tour as well. so they're like we can do this. we can do this. so, you know, we have a lot of these pictures of african americans with instruments rarely with actual weapons of war which are becomes an easy way to make light of their contributions, not just because fewer saw combat, but the work that they did overseas rrts overwhelming majority who were in labor battalions did women's work, blue collar work. cooking, cleaning, digging toilets, cleaning toilets.
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that's not the tough of that gets you a vote and that's not the stuff that you can lean on after the war in order to be taken more seriously as a citizen. i will end here with the pictures of captain stewart alexander and lute frank robinson who were just two many african americans who earned the french bravery -- the french decoration for bravery in battle. and these medals that you see on these men and what they sometimes have on their shoulders will become for african americans another powerful measure of a failed possibility in 1917. that the french recognize what the americans were all too ready to hang on a tree or light ablaze. and that, for many, will be the real shame, the real loss of the war. now, i promised at the beginning that i would talk about the cost of war for african americans.
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and so how timely that i'm on my last slide, just as lora is coming down. i want to end with the disgenic impact of war. now that usually just means in a narrow way the gene loss that we get. for one thing the war halts civil rights campaigns, those things i started with, the money sent to support legal cases, legal challenges to jim crow cars, jim crow restaurants, unequal pay for black teachers. instead, that gets redirected towards suiting these guys up for war, making sure they have the socks that they need, the candy that they need, the car packages they need, the right kind of rifle, the right things to keep them warm, the right things to keep them happy. it is a strain on already limited and meager resources both in terms of income but also food. we're talking about people who barely had any food to begin
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with to ration still more because of the war. it is a dramatic loss of that talented tenth, that generation to have made it through school, to have sat through hbcus, to have graduated from medical schools, to have graduate fwrd l -- graduated from law schools, those with the know how are left in europe. it's a tremendous loss of medical professionals that we cannot afford and that will take entirely too long to replace. it leads to a greater police surveillance of african-american communities especially in the north, and that will slow civil rights like nothing else. and, of course, the war era gives us an absolute spike in lynching and race riots and the those arson attacks that i talked about such that it will become the main thing that consumes african americans between 1917 and 1920. so there's a tremendous amount of promise for african americans
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in 1917, and that is what they carry when they cross the atlantic. you'll have to come back next year to find out what happens afterwards. thank you [ applause ] we have just a short a. time for a question. >> you had a couple of references to pershing, but given his history of leading black troops all the way back to the spanish-american war. >> yeah. >> what can you say about it and did he acquiesce or what were his views? >> oh, pershing, what a mess. his experience with african-american soldiers even predates the spanish-american war. they had -- he was involved with the buffalo soldiers and the indian wars and the border wars even before the philippines and
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cuba. he has a mixed experience. on the one hand, his white peers mock him by initially calling him nigger jack but then it gets cleaned up to blackjack pershing. i have read his biographies, i've read more than i ever cared to, and he never compresses any particular affinity for black soldiers. neither is he concerned or disdain frl of the disdainful of them. but when it comes to world war i, he's obsessed with having a perfect army in effect, no matter the cost, right? and so black dots are not a part of it. and i think that his -- his willingness to send black combatant troops to the french really solves -- it's an easy solution to his problem. if they fail, as he expects that they will, then it's all the way
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over here and no one will write about it or talk about it so, you know, it's over, the kprermt -- experiment is finished and we can go back andsy we can't have an integrated army, you guys sucked, right? if they succeed, which they do, then it's all the way over in france and with sense soreship well, the news never quite made it over. so it's a convenient solution. he gives then from whach they want, which is american soldiers that they can control and they can train, but he has no particular regard for them. certainly by world war i. >> i know that there are more questions in this auditorium. the pleasure of being in the room where it happens is -- thank you for that one laugh on that one. you're going to have the opportunity during our break potentially to ask those questions. i would also encourage you, most of your name tags have two tickets in there to use those or
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offer one of those in a conversation with dr. mathieu as you ask her those questions. >> oh, lora, you think i sell for cheap. >> this is why you don't want to be watching it on ay this the rest is history. >> q and a sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span.
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good morning everyone. good morning again. and thank you for joining our second session today. i teach in the history program here. i also and the director of suwanny's project on slaver


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