Back home, many whites feared that African Americans would return demanding equality and would try to attain it by employing their military training. The War Department, fearing racial uprisings, was willing to sacrifice the unit's ability to develop cohesion and pride. The rigors of combat and labor challenged black soldiers' physical and emotional stamina.
No longer subjected to the indignities of Jim Crow and the constant threat of racial violence, southern migrants experienced a new sense of freedom. On the eve of American entry into the war, democracy was a distant reality for African Americans. They practiced drilling with and without arms, signaling, physical training, memorizing the organization of the regiment, reading maps, and training on the rifle and bayonet.
Following some initial successes in Lorraine in mid-August, on 20 Septemberthe 92d was ordered to proceed to the Argonne Forest in preparation for the Meuse-Argonne offensive.
The majority of black farmers labored as sharecroppers, remained in perpetual debt, and lived in dire poverty. Their condition worsened in —16 as a result of a boll weevil infestation that ruined cotton crops throughout the South.
This was to be the first and only class to graduate from Fort Des Moines; the War Department shut it down soon after their departure. By latethe German Army was in full retreat, the Allied Commander in Chief, Field Marshal Ferdinand Foch, wanted to apply heavy pressure for a decisive breakthrough and defeat.
Race, Class and Power in the Alabama Coalfields, International pressure was closely tied to the domestic expectations of African Americans.
Even when integrated into fairly progressive camps, black soldiers were often treated badly and sometimes went for long periods without proper clothing.