Happy Veterans Day: The American Negro in the World War

In 1919, Emmett Jay Scott, a journalist, founding newspaper editor, government official, educator, and author published “Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War”.

Emmett Jay Scott

“Scott’s official history of the American Negro in the World War is a complete and authentic narration, from official sources, of the participation of American soldiers of the Negro race in the World War for democracy…a full account of the war work organizations of colored men and women and other civilian activities, including the Red Cross, the YMCA, the YWCA, and the war camp community service, with official summary of treaty of peace and League of Nations covenant.”

During World War I, nearly 400,000 Negro soldiers served. Despite their eagerness to serve, many Black soldiers were discouraged from enlisting. And when they were enlisted, Black soldiers were assigned to menial tasks. And yet the contributions Black soldiers, and supporting civilians, made were insurmountable.

This book covers the struggle for Black soldiers to enlist, as well as fight in combat, their treatment, the famous 92nd Division, the 367th Infantry Regiment, and the 369th Infantry Regiment, which helped change American’s views on black soldiers and paved the way for future black soldiers. The unit became known as the Harlem Hellfighters(as well as Men Of Bronze and Black Rattlers).

There was the 370th US infantry, a Black National Guard Regiment, known as the Black Devils, who were the first American troops to march into the fortified city of Laon. The 371th Infantry and 372th Infantry helped win the war with fierce fighting and extensive losses.

And then there is Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts who were guarding a post when they came under attack from German Soldiers. Roberts was gravely injured and both he and Johnson were surrounded. Johnson had Roberts lie in a trench to stay safe and assist Johnson by handing him grenades.

Needham Roberts


Henry Johnson

The two quickly ran out of grenades and Johnson took multiple bullets to the face but continued to fire on the Germans until his gun jammed. Badly injured and armed with only a bolo knife, Johnson fought off the German and managed to grab and drag Roberts away as the Germans began to retreat upon hearing that the French and American forces were advancing. In the end, it was reported that Johnson killed four Germans and injured between 10-20 more. As a result, Johnson and Roberts were awarded France’s highest military honor, the Croix du Guerre award, the first American privates to do so. The HellFighters returned to the states heroes.

Check out all chapters of “Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War” HERE.

Black Americans have always put country first, despite this country always putting us last. Since the revolutionary war, black soldiers have volunteered to put their lives on the lines to fight for the freedoms and liberties that should be afforded to all citizens.

Now whether you feel black people should be fighting a white man’s battle is neither here nor there. What is important is that we acknowledge those who stepped to the plate. The contributions of these black men and women should not go unnoticed.

We thank you.

We appreciate you.

We honor you.

Happy Veterans Day.