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History professor tells stories of difficulties African-Americans faced in WWI service

By Seth Abrahamson
via the Spectator (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student newspaper) web site

Professor Selika Ducksworth LawtonProfessor Selika Ducksworth-Lawton’s presentation was part of the ‘WWI and America’ series to commemorate 100 years since the U.S. entered the war. Photo by Kar Wei Cheng.On Tuesday, November 14, Selika Ducksworth-Lawton, a military historian and history professor at UW-Eau Claire, presented on African-American service in World War I.

The event was part of a two-week series put on by UW-Eau Claire, the McIntyre Library, the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild, Student Veterans of America-UWEC Chapter, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and the Chippewa Valley Museum, to commemorate the centennial of the United States’s entrance into World War I.

Ducksworth-Lawton told stories of the difficulties African-Americans faced before the U.S. entered World War I, the environments the soldiers were put under during their time of service and how they were treated when they returned home.

The audience included college students, professors and a Korean War veteran who shared his own war experience with African-Americans.

Only 350,000 African-Americans served in World War I and a majority of those men were in support roles. Sixty thousand of those saw combat, including the famed “Harlem Hellfighters.”

African-Americans before World War I were not allowed to enlist in the military, according to Ducksworth-Lawton, because they were viewed as inferior to everyone else. All that changed in the early 1900s when a law termed “new negro” allowed African-Americans who were born after the Civil War to enlist.

Ducksworth-Lawton said African-Americans sought service to counter the stereotypes against them. They wanted equality, a chance to show to everyone else they belonged but also education, as many of them were not literate.

Read the whole article on the Spectator web site:

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