First World War Soldier
American (New Mexico) (American)
MediumHand tinted gelatin-silver print
DimensionsImage : 19 1/2 x 13 1/2 in. (49.53 x 34.29 cm)
Frame : 24 3/4 x 18 3/4 in. (62.87 x 47.63 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
LabelWhen the United States entered World War I in 1917, it opened new opportunities for African American men to serve in the military and to experience for the first time the world beyond the rural South. Altogether more than 380,000 African Americans served in the US military during the First World War. All branches of the armed forces were racially segregated at the time, and most African American units were relegated to support roles such as transportation and construction. However, there were two Black Army divisions, the 92nd and 93rd, which fought in combat and performed valiantly despite being given inferior weapons and equipment. Whether they served in support or combat roles, most African American soldiers took great pride in their military service. Such pride is evident in this unusually large, custom-framed studio portrait of a Black First World War soldier. Many African American soldiers hoped that serving their country overseas would help them win respect and equal treatment at home. Sadly, many Black soldiers returned from their military service to face continued racial discrimination and violence in both the South and the North. Indeed, white-on-black violence actually increased across the country in the year after the war ended and included the lynching of at least eleven newly returned military veterans.