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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

Secretary of War Newton Baker to President Wilson, May 17, 1917. Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (038.00.00)
William Augustus Pollard. Enlistment Application for African American Officer's Camp to J. E. Spingarn, April 25, 1917. NAACP Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (040.00.00)


America's entrance into the war sparked debate within the African American community regarding enlistment and segregation. While some believed opposing military service could be a means to protest the nation's racial policies, others believed supporting the war effort by enlisting offered an imperfect opportunity to advance civil rights. Black college students at Amherst College, Howard University, and the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutes, among other schools, demanded that officers' training be offered to qualified African American soldiers. Washington, D.C., minister and civic leader Reverend J. Milton Waldron and the Committee of One Hundred, consisting of black leaders from across the nation, repeatedly lobbied Secretary of War Newton Baker and President Woodrow Wilson to establish officer's training for qualified African American soldiers.