At home, America was still a segregated society when World War I began. Although laws against interracial marriage had been repealed by most states in 1868, many states continued to enforce laws forbidding blacks from marrying whites or from testifying against whites in court cases. In some states, black children were segregated from white students in public schools or required to attend separate schools for blacks only.
In addition, many states passed laws that prohibited blacks from voting or serving on juries even if they were educated and employed as teachers or lawyers. In some states, such as Mississippi, these laws remained on the books until 1965!
During World War I, however, many African Americans finally began to come together with whites over their common love of country and desire for victory over Germany. Black soldiers fought side by side with white soldiers in trenches across Europe while Jim Crow laws were repealed at home because they were no longer necessary due to this new sense of unity. By 1918 there were over 350,000 black soldiers serving in segregated units. These men fought with distinction under fire and earned many awards for bravery including two Congressional Medals of Honor and over 1,500 lesser decorations such as Croix de Guerre and Purple Hearts for wounds received in combat.
Overall, approximately 350,000 African Americans served during World War I out of more than 4 million total U.S. military personnel who fought overseas during this conflict (about one percent).