Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Deeds, Not Words: African American Officers of World War I in the Battle for Racial Equality

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History

First Advisor

John R. Neff

Second Advisor

Lori Wolff

Third Advisor

Susan R. Grayzel


This dissertation investigates the relatively untold story of the black officers of the Seventeenth Provisional Training Regiment, the first class of African Americans to receive officer training. In particular, this research examines the creation of the segregated Army officer training camp, these men's training and wartime experiences during World War I, and their post-war contributions fighting discrimination and injustice. These officers returned to America disillusioned with the nation's progress towards civil rights. Their leadership roles in the military translated into leadership roles in the post-war civil rights movement. Through their efforts, foundations for the modern Civil Rights movement were created. Through analysis of these men's lives, the dissertation details how these men returned from war and impacted change in America. They attacked the legality of segregation through both local and national civil rights' cases, embraced leadership roles in the "New Negro" movement, highlighted the value of educating black youth, and fought to integrate the military. These men served as the vanguard of civil rights fighting first as soldiers for democracy in Europe and returning as leaders determined to defeat segregation and injustice.

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