Slavery In America Throughout History

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Slavery in America began in 1619 when Dutch traders seized African Americans from a captured Spanish ship. Although some historians claim that slavery began in 1640 when African Americans were officially considered slaves. From this point on, African Americans have been continuously oppressed for something they cannot control. They have been restricted in their lives for hundreds of years because of their skin color. People during these time periods came to the conclusion that African Americans were less than them, this stereotype still exists in some people’s minds currently. An aspect of oppression people may overlook when thinking of the hardships African Americans have endured was their conditions and treatment during wars America has fought. Throughout World War I, African Americans served in segregated units. Many of the African American troops were placed in French units instead of America units as they were seen as less important to the Americans. In addition to this, the numbered accomplishments African American soldiers did make during these wars were overlooked because of the intense racism during this time. The roles of African Americans because of their skin color were limited in WWI.

Many African Americans viewed World War I as their opportunity to prove to their white counterparts that they were just, if not more capable than them. This event prompted many African Americans to enlist in the war for hopes of a better life and to change people’s minds. Despite their enthusiasm, many African Americans were turned away in the beginning because of the abundance of common bigotry many Americans possessed. Many African Americans who did not want to prove themselves, just wanted to serve their country. Although the military was hesitant to accept African Americans into the war effort their troops were not large enough to fight against the overpowering force of Germany. As a result, they began accepting more African Americans until the four regiments of African American troops that had already existed before World War I had reached maximum capacity. This was a good start in increasing the militaries numbers, but they still needed more soldiers. To compensate America began including blacks into the draft to increase the number of troops and to lower the number of white men entering the war too fast. This change in mindset allowed for more young men to stay home safe and more African American men to join the war effort as they wanted previously.

Despite the desperate need for more soldiers against the war effort and the enthusiasm of African Americans to join the war effort and be recognized as equals, the military neglected to give African Americans full military training. They began creating segregated training camps for the black members to train in while still keeping them separate. This portrays that during this time period there was no escape from segregation and racism as many African Americans had hoped the war would be different from their everyday lives.

America has always found a way to bring up white men and oppress black men at every turn, the war included. Bobby Wintermute stated, “Yet even here the extent of participation was limited. The overwhelming majority of the 367,000 conscripted Blacks were dispatched to labour battalions, where they were put to work building camps, railroads and supply depots across France” (Wintermute 281). The reader can interpret that even during times of desperate measures that the military kept African Americans out of the high-level jobs to ensure that the people in America did not see African Americans doing courageous things; this limited the African Americans ability to be recognized by the people in America for their accomplishments and outstanding service they could have achieved in higher-level positions. Many of the African Americans who did fight in combat positions during World War I fought alongside the French and not the Americans, as the French did not have segregated units it made it easier for the Allied Powers to add numbers without all of the complications of segregation African Americans would have had serving as an all-black unit.

Two brave African American soldiers who went above and beyond for their country, as well as their fellow soldiers, were Sergeant Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts. Johnson and his unit fought with a French colonial unit in front-line combat. Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts were one of the first Americans awarded the French Croix de Guerre Avec Palme, France’s highest award for valor. The reason Johnson and Roberts have been awarded these great honors is that of their gallantry against a German raiding party. The party consisted of at least twelve people trying to free German prisoners. Johnson had saved Private Roberts by stabbing at least one of the men attacking him. Johnson and Roberts held them off, risking their lives until the Germans finally retreated. These men had done the unthinkable taking on more than twelve men knowing the odds were stacked against them; they did not retreat or give in to the injuries they endured from the German raiding party they continued to fight. This is an example of African Americans accomplishments being overlooked, these men expressed great strength and might, if a white American had displayed these attributes they would have be praised in the eyes of America.

As a result of the way America viewed African Americans during World War I and long after it took 97 years before Sergeant Henry Johnson was recognized for his outstanding service and became one of two men who served in WWI to receive the Medal of Honor from America. Throughout WWI African Americans were put into lower level positions and segregated units. Due to the racism and segregation throughout this war, Henry Johnson and many other capable African Americans who wanted to protect and serve America were limited in their ability to do so. 

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