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historyFrom Heroes To Hanged Men: African-American Soldiers in WWI (part 2 of 2)
FROM HEROES TO HANGED MEN: African-American Soldiers in WWI

From Heroes To Hanged Men: African-American Soldiers in WWI (part 2 of 2)

On 11 November 1918, the armistice went into effect. The war was officially over.  Like white American soldiers, African American troops celebrated their contribution to the victory. Over 5,000 African American soldiers had died on the battlefields of Europe.  France paid them all the highest of honors with the Croix de Guerre. Expecting to be welcomed home as heroes, black soldiers received a rude awakening upon their return.

‘’For the African American Community, the violence of January 6, 2021, the vitrolic hatred by white nationalists, is not a new phenomena. At every mark of progress we’ve made, the violent, homicidal rantings of those who want to “keep us in our place” have tried to push us down. The Red Summer of 1919 is just one horrific moment in history where this occured. And still we rise.’’

White Americans were afraid African Americans would return demanding equality in employment and housing.  They were heroes only to France.  Many white Americans launched a frenzied campaign of violence to “keep the Negro” in his place. 

‘’For the African American Community, the violence of January 6, 2021, the vitrolic hatred by white nationalists, is not a new phenomena.  At every mark of progress we’ve made, the violent, homicidal rantings of those who want to “keep us in our place” have tried to push us down.  The Red Summer of 1919 is just one horrific moment in history where this occured. And still we rise.’’

Lynchings

White Americans were afraid African Americans would return demanding equality in employment and housing.  They were heroes only to France.  Many white Americans launched a frenzied campaign of violence to “keep the Negro” in his place. 

Lynching, which had gone on since slavery was suddenly on the rise. During the summer and fall of 1919, anti-black race riots erupted in twenty-six cities across America.  Fifty-eight lynchings of African Americans were reported in 1918, with another seventy-seven reported in 1919.  The summer of 1919, witnessed so much violence again African Americans it was called “the Red Summer.”

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Military Veterans Singled Out

Most of the victims of this racial violence were veterans.  Veterans were singled out. Some men were lynched while still wearing their uniforms. Sadly, they were not just victims of lynching.  Some were shot or beaten. Others were even burned alive.  

African American veterans were explicitly targeted because they were men trained to kill,  representing the greatest threat to white supremacy.   The African American veteran’s success in the war and experience with equality in France were unacceptable to white America.  To them, this represented far too much freedom for the African American race. 

‘’Men who fought on the battlefields of Europe and returned home as heroes realized they might have helped change part of the world, but not America. ’’

White society, particularly in the South, felt it was necessary to emasculate African Americans to keep them in their place.  Men who fought on the battlefields of Europe and returned home as heroes realized they might have helped change part of the world, but not America.  It was still the segregated, oppressive racist place it was before they volunteered, risking their lives for a country that did not want them. A century has passed, and the freedoms these men fought and died for, still elude African Americans today.

At the age of six, living in Chicago, Illinois, I saw Paris and San Francisco for the first time between the pages of my World Book Encyclopedias. That began my love affair with books and magazines. It also led me to declare that when I grew up I would live in San Francisco and Paris. While most of us never get to achieve our childhood dreams, I have been able to do so. I've lived in San Francisco since 1984 and got my first apartment in Paris in 2001. For nearly 18 years I have traveled between my two favorite cities on earth, while I enjoy a life of writing, coaching, and speaking. Life for me is a banquet and I am savoring every moment!

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  • Mark Louis

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