Fighting in the Jim Crow Army: black men and women remember by Maggie Morehouse

By Maggie Morehouse

Informed of their personal phrases, the tales of fifty women and men from segregated, black infantry divisions will switch the best way we expect approximately international struggle II.

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After Whitley recovered from the shock, he went down to the induction office to take a battery of tests. Like other inductees, Whitley answered questions about his preference for the navy or the army, believing all the while that he had a choice in the matter. “I heard that the army was very tough, so I told the man that I wanted to be in the navy. Then the guy stamped ‘army’ on my papers, and Ha! That was it. ” Cleother Hathcock was also a young man with aspirations to go to college and learn a trade when he was drafted out of high school.

After high school, Watt worked at a munitions plant loading TNT into shells. Drafted when he was nineteen years old, he had not previously thought of military service in terms of a career, even though his grandfather had served in the Civil War and his uncle had been in World War I. He indicated to the officer at the induction center that he wanted to obtain medical training, or perhaps even learn dentistry, during his military stint. He wanted to expand his opportunities. The officer asked Watt if he wanted to be a paratrooper, and he said no—that was more than he had bargained for.

Added to the emotional cost of segregating soldiers was the economic cost of building separate facilities and structures. The multiplicity of government agencies charged with addressing “the Negro problem” failed to construct a universal policy approach that did anything more than reflect the general prejudice rampant in the American ethos. The Selective Service Act of 1940 was introduced in the House of Representatives by Republican Representative Hamilton Fish, a commander in World War I of the “Harlem Hellfighters,” an all-black infantry regiment.

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