Date of Award
Ph.D. in History
Arch Dalrymple III Department of History
Charles K. Ross
The following dissertation discusses race, identity, and white violence in relation to African American military service during the Spanish-American war, the Philippine-American war, and World War I. It examines the conditions at the turn of the century that African Americans faced, including military service as well as discrimination, racism, violence, and legal problems comamong African American military personnel throughout this time period. More specifically, it argues that the creation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909 created a catalyst for increased activism on behalf of black soldiers serving in the American military. The NAACP became such an prominent organization by the time World War I began that African American military personnel utilized its influence to their advantage when advocating for increasing the number of African American officers, the end of discrimination and segregation in the military, the end of lynching civilians and soldiers, and legal justice in civilian and military courts. I argue that an important shift occurs for African American military personnel in 1909, particularly due to the pressure the NAACP placed upon the United States war department to end discrimination in the military and its activism on behalf of black soldiers and veterans. As noted throughout the dissertation, African American military activism existed for many years prior to World War I to resist white violence and Jim Crow, but the formation of the NAACP created a catalyst for improved activism both by and on behalf of African American soldiers in subsequent decades. Some of the issues undertaken by the NAACP on behalf of African American military personnel included challenging discriminatory treatment on military bases, combat versus labor assignments, promotions during their careers in the military, lynchings that targeted black soldiers and veterans throughout the American south, and petitions for retrials by men accused of participation in the Houston Riot of 1917. Utilizing soldiers' personal letters, newspaper publications throughout the united states, NAACP archival material, and various newspaper and magazine publications and regimental histories authored by veterans have yielded the most extensive and comprehensive history of the NAACP’s influence in regard to African American military service in the united states at the beginning of the twentieth century. Prior to the NAACP’s interest and impact upon African American military service during the first world war, African American military personnel lacked the financial, legal, and moral support from a national organization to aid in challenging the united states military's discriminatory policies and mistreatment of American soldiers. This work, then, traces the history of African American military personnel from the Spanish-American war, the Philippine-American war, and World War I and discusses the vital role the NAACP performed in advocating for equal treatment for African American soldiers and veterans. It highlights the activism undertaken by African American soldiers in all three conflicts, and how the NAACP became a catalyst for activism on behalf of black military personnel. This dissertation enhances the current scholarship on African American military personnel at the turn of the twentieth century by illustrating the connections between African American military service in the Spanish-American war, the Philippine-American war, and World War I, a correlation overlooked by scholars focusing solely upon World War I as the catalyst for activism within the African American community. Instead, this work enhances the connections and similarities experienced by black military personnel at the turn of the twentieth century, highlighting the importance of a national organization's influence and political power in advocating for the favorable treatment of African American soldiers and veterans.
Nagel, Amanda Marie, "Democracy For Whom?: The Spanish-American War, The Philippine-American War, World War I, And The NAACP" (2014). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 1054.