"Black Soldiers Mattered" examines the experiences of African American soldiers from one state—North Carolina—serving as a microcosm of the national experience of Black soldiers who served their country in a war to "Make the World Safe for Democracy" during the era of Jim Crow. BSM is designed to connect you with the collective and the individual experience. You may visualize the journey of all 21,609 Black North Carolinians soldiers by using the digital map and timeline, simultaneously illustrating their journey across time and space.
You can also explore an African American ancestor, community member, or more likely a total stranger who, two or three generations back, served his nation in the Great War. BSM allows you to trace this young man’s century-old journey from his induction, to his stateside training camp, through his shipment to France (if he was among the half who served abroad), and finally until his return home or until his death. You may explore what units he served with; when and where he served; and when he was discharged or, for some, died. Moreover, you can see a digital version of his actual "Statement of Service Card" that includes all the information about his wartime experience on one card.
The foundation of the BSM project is the "Statement of Service Card," a 1920s military record Congress required that all states, through the Adjutant General, create to capture and preserve the service record of their residents who had participated in the Great War between April 6, 1917 and November 11, 1918. The Service Card provides a condensed record of each individual’s military service from induction to discharge.
In the top right corner of each Service Card is the designation "colored" or "white." This segregation marker enables historians to identify the soldiers by race. BSM draws significantly upon compilation and analysis of the data reported on the Service Cards. The analysis of this population of African American soldiers from North Carolina who served in World War I rests on a random sample of 1,500 selected from the entire population of 21,609 via a random-number generator. The database includes all scanned images of North Carolina’s Service Cards designated "colored" with these noted exceptions. *Note some scanned images of Service Cards for soldiers with last names between "Alston" & "Anderson"; "Dulin" & "Ellis"; "Ferrell" & "Fox" are not available from the North Carolina Archives.
Unit information is derived from several sources: Order of the Battle of the United States Land Forces in the World War (1917-19) Zone of the Interior, Volume 3, Parts 1-2 (Washington: Historical Division Special Staff United States Army, 1949); Robert J. Dalessandro and Gerald Torrence, Willing Patriots: Men of Color in the First World War (Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd, 2009); and "Colored Organizations of the United States Army on November 11, 1918," in "Colored Organization of the U.S. Army" Folder, Entry 310/Record Group 165, National Archives, College Park, MD.
Throughout the BSM project, the visualization of the collective journey and the statistical analysis of the entire population of Black North Carolina soldiers are based on the random sample of 1,500. While some data for all soldiers is captured for your viewing, only the 1,500 from the random sample have all fields of the Service Cards fully captured digitally for your searching and illustrated with the map.
With more funds for data entry and coding, BSM could be expanded to truly include ALL of the soldiers and ALL aspects of their service. Please contact Janet Hudson if you have access to or can provide that funding.
BSM would not be possible without many people who have contributed to this work-in-progress project. With the assistance of many people, listed below and made possible partially by grants listed below, I created both a database of all the digital Service Cards of North Carolinians identified as "colored" and a random sample from the same population of Service Cards.
Many thanks to the following: Matthew Simmons, director of the Digital US South, Institute of Southern Studies, University of South Carolina, who was an enthusiastic supporter and proponent of this project early on. Adrian Quiroga and Siddharth Pathak, of the Digital US South, created and coded the BSM interactive website, providing endless patience and revisions. Vassil Kokurko, also of the Digital US South, provided the graphic design expertise and designed the BSM logo. Ashley Yandle and Kelly Eubank at the State Archives of North Carolina were instrumental in sharing the digital images of the Service Cards. Kate Boyd, University of South Carolina digital collections librarian; Colin Wilder, John Knox, W. Wayne Lemasters, and Richard Abercrombie of USC Center for Digital Humanities; and Lili E. Kinman and Kellie McKinney USC undergraduates, who each helped with some aspect of creating the original database and/or random sample.
The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History in Raleigh, North Carolina houses digital copies of these Service Cards in its Adjutant General’s Records. Digital images of this public record are crucial for the BSM project. *Note some digital images of Service Cards for soldiers with last names between "Alston" & "Anderson"; "Dulin" & "Ellis"; "Ferrell" & "Fox" are not available from the North Carolina Archives.
A narrative analysis of the contributions of these African Americans soldiers is forthcoming in "Black North Carolinian Soldiers in the Great War: A Microcosm of the National African American Experience," chapter in North Carolina During the First World War, 1914-1922, University of Tennessee Press. 2017. You can also contact Janet Hudson, the author and project creator, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information