Racism and The Great War in "The Crisis"

In the opinion section of The Crisis, Vol. 10, No. 3, I came across an interesting article entitled "The War," considering what effect The Great War would have on the status of Blacks in England, France, and the United States. The author weighs arguments from several different scholars, the first of whom, Saint Nihal Singh, predicts that the status of Blacks and Indians in the British and French empires will be forever changed due to recognition of their heroism on the battlefield. The second quoted author, Joseph Edward Chamberlin, questions the merit of that argument, and points to historical examples of Blacks fighting on behalf of their country. No improvement in social or economic status resulted from the participation of Black soldiers, going back to the Egyptians and all the way up to the Spanish-American War. While Chamberlin recognizes that "France is the only country that gives equality to the colored man; and presumably, in that country, the service of the Senegalese will not be forgotten," he doubts whether any real change will come about in "the white world at large."

The article goes on to quote a South African newspaper calling on the British to recognize the faithful service of the native African peoples in providing an enormous amount of wealth in gold to the empire during the war, as well as a Toronto newspaper warning against any one nation presuming to impose its values and society upon the world as a whole. It concludes: "Equality for all, because mastership for none!"

The author of this opinion piece reflects more widely-held views of the time, namely that France stands out as being more progressive on issues of race, and that both the British and French empires stand to lose a great deal of power and fortune if they do not recognize the contribution to their societies provided by the native peoples they rule. It is implied that those nations are to provide an example for the United States, where Blacks did not feel recognized for their contributions as soliders in the nation's wars, and where laws governing their treatment were so wildly inconsistent between states.