Recruiting posters for African American soldiers, 1918
A Spotlight on a Primary Source by E. G. Renesch and Charles Gustrine
These two World War I recruiting posters aim to encourage African Americans to enlist. In the first poster, “Colored Man Is No Slacker,” a black soldier takes his leave against a background of African American patriotism, self-sacrifice, and courage. The second poster, “True Sons of Freedom,” invokes the memory of Abraham Lincoln and the bravery of black troops to inspire African Americans to sign up. It frames the war as a struggle for freedom akin to the Civil War. Both posters position the war as an opportunity for African Americans to prove their patriotism and serve their country.
More than 350,000 African Americans, trained and deployed in segregated units, served in the US military during World War I, of whom 42,000 saw action in Europe.