Black Soldiers Mattered

Black North Carolinians as Soldiers in the First World War: A Microcosm of the National African American Experience

By Janet G. Hudson

Soldier's Journey

April 6, 1917, changed the lives of 21,609 young African American men from North Carolina. The participation of these Black North Carolinians in World War I has been mostly ignored. Black Soldiers Mattered addresses that void with this interactive site. Explore the journey of Black North Carolinians (BNC)—as units and individual soldiers—from induction to demobilization.



National Service Shaped by Racism

Military preparations for war conformed to the rules of segregated America, influencing all African American soldiers’ wartime experiences. Yet even within these limitations, Black North Carolinians made their mark. They were among the first American combat soldiers, black or white, to arrive in Europe, among the early stevedore volunteers, among the recipients of military awards and honors, and among the last returning soldiers who restored the killing fields of France for human habitation.

Overseas v. Domestic Service

Approximately half of Black North Carolinians experienced the war in France and the other half in the US. Of those who sailed abroad, approximately 20% served as combat soldiers in arms. North Carolinians served in both segregated combat divisions—92nd and 93rd. The other 80% in France served as laboring soldiers in five different types of units. The half assigned to domestic units met a wide variety of needs in a host of specialized labor units.

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