Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow

Cumulus Radio Kansas City invites you to experience the Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow exhibit May 27 to Sept. 18, 2022 at The National WWI Museum and Memorial.

The National WWI Museum and Memorial is pleased to present Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim
Crow, which explores the struggle for full citizenship and racial equality that unfolded in the 50 years after
the Civil War and leading into WWI. When slavery ended in 1865, a period of Reconstruction began (1865 to 1877), leading to achievements such as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. By 1868, all persons born in the United States were citizens and equal before the law, but efforts to create an interracial democracy were contested from the start. A harsh backlash ensued, ushering in the “separate but equal” age of Jim Crow.

The exhibition is organized chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I and highlights the central role played by African Americans in advocating for their rights. It also examines the depth and breadth of opposition to Black advancement, including how Jim Crow permeated the North.

African Americans made up only 10% of the U.S. population in 1917 but a total of 13% of the United
States armed services during World War I. The first African Americans in military service to be in combat
zones were members of the U.S. Navy and were among the service personnel landing the first troops of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Though the American military reflected the diversity of its population, Black servicemen were not treated equally. Nearly 80% of African American soldiers were organized into supply, construction or other noncombatant units.

Two predominately African American combat divisions were formed in WWI: the 92nd Division, under U.S. command, and the 93rd Division (comprised of four Infantry Regiments: 369th, 370th, 371st, and 372nd), initially under French command. The 369th Infantry Regiment proved the capabilities of African American troops, serving the longest of any American combat troops in the trenches. It established an excellent reputation fighting under the French and earned nicknames like “Harlem Hellfighters.” Sgt. Henry Johnson, a member of the 369th Infantry Regiment, was the first American recipient of the French Croix de Guerre for bravery. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously in 2015.

Through art, artifacts, photographs and media, the exhibition highlights these transformative
decades in American history and their continued relevance today.