African Americans in Military Service

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, African Americans made significant sacrifices by volunteering to fight for the United States in the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Describe the development of African American institutions such as religion, education, and benevolent organizations.
Describe and evaluate the contributions of African Americans during World War II.
Evaluate the topic or subject in two diverse formats or media.
Evaluate how reasoning and evidence affects the argument and specific claims in a text.
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 
  • Student will analyze photographs and stereographs.
  • Students will categorize primary sources chronologically by identifying context clues.
Essential and guiding questions: 

How did African Americans contribute to the war effort during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 
  • Students can explore the Trials and Triumphs Web site to learn more about Tennessee’s history between the end of the American Civil War and the end of World War II.
  • Prompt your students to discuss how African Americans also fought during the Civil War. How was this a different situation for the African Americans than volunteering for the other three wars discussed?
  • Learn more about the Veterans History Project.

Helpful Hints

Primary Sources: Library of Congress

  • True sons of freedom [1918]
  • Colored Troops Disembarking in 1898 [1898]
  • Ninth U.S. Cavalry--famous Colored Regiment--Draw Sabers! [ca. 1898]
  • World War I soldier with American flag in background [between 1914 and 1918]
  • Medal of honor men Have received medals of honor in United States Army and Navy. [ca. 1900]
  • 24th Infantry Leaving Salt Lake City, Utah for Chattanooga, Tennessee, April 24th, 1898 [1898]

Primary Sources: Trials and Triumphs

  • Nancy Harvey Searcy [ca. 1940s]
  • Group of African Americans being transferred to jail in Nashville [1946]
  • Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant wood shop workers [ca. 1940s]
  • Company 1, 20 Regiment, Third W.A.C. Training Center, Fort Oglethorpe, BA [1945]