Race, War, and Surveillance: African Americans and the United States Government during World War I

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Indiana University Press, Jul 26, 2001 - History - 352 pages

In April 1917, black Americans reacted in various ways to the entry of the United States into World War I in the name of "Democracy." Some expressed loud support, many were indifferent, and others voiced outright opposition. All were agreed, however, that the best place to start guaranteeing freedom was at home.

Almost immediately, rumors spread across the nation that German agents were engaged in "Negro Subversion" and that African Americans were potentially disloyal. Despite mounting a constant watch on black civilians, their newspapers, and their organizations, the domestic intelligence agents of the federal government failed to detect any black traitors or saboteurs. They did, however, find vigorous demands for equal rights to be granted and for the 30-year epidemic of lynching in the South to be eradicated. In Race, War, and Surveillance, Mark Ellis examines the interaction between the deep-seated fears of many white Americans about a possible race war and their profound ignorance about the black population. The result was a "black scare" that lasted well beyond the war years.

Mark Ellis is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland.

June 2001
256 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, index, append.
cloth 0-253-33923-5 $39.95 s / £30.50

African Americans and the War for Democracy, 1917
The Wilson Administration and Black Opinion, 1917--1918
Black Doughboys
The Surveillance of African American Leadership
W. E. B. Du Bois, Joel E. Spingarn, and Military Intelligence
Diplomacy and Demobilization, 1918--1919


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User Review  - Shrike58 - LibraryThing

The matter of where legitimate social dissent ends and justified government surveillance starts is a hot issue, this book is most certainly not. While Ellis has done his research one has no sense that the man brings any fire to his study, and he manages to make a relevant subject boring. Read full review


The Wilson Administrationand Black Opinion 19171918
Black Doughboys
The Surveillance of AfricanAmerican Leadership
W E B Du Bois Joel Spingarnand Military Intelligence
Diplomacy and Demobilization 19181919
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Page xvii - There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances because they do not want to lose their jobs.
Page 10 - When we shall have obtained independence for the negroes we shall grant them a banner which they themselves shall be permitted to select, and we shall aid them in obtaining six States of the American Union, which States border upon those already mentioned, and they may from these six States form a republic and they may therefore be independent.
Page 5 - This war is an End and, also, a Beginning. Never again will darker people of the world occupy just the place they had before. Out of this war will rise, soon or late, an independent China, a self-governing India, an Egypt with representative institutions, an Africa for the Africans, and not merely for business exploitation. Out of this war will rise, too, an American Negro with the right to vote and the right to work and the right to live without insult.

About the author (2001)

Mark Ellis is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland. He has published articles on race and ethnicity in America during World War I in several journals, including the Journal of American History.

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