In a July 1918 editorial in The Crisis, W.E.B. DuBois urged African Americans to set aside their differences with their countrymen over the nation’s treatment of its black citizens and “close ranks” in the war against Imperial Germany and its Allies. Ten months later, after witnessing the horrific treatment of black soldiers returning from Europe to the United States, including the lynchings of several while still wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army, DuBois wrote a very different editorial urging black men and women to resist their treatment. That editorial appears below.
We are returning from war! The Crisis and tens of thousands of black men were drafted into a great struggle. For bleeding France and what she means and has meant and will mean to us and humanity and against the threat of German race arrogance, we fought gladly and to the last drop of blood; for America and her highest ideals, we fought in far-off hope; for the dominant southern oligarchy entrenched in Washington, we fought in bitter resignation. For the America that represents and gloats in lynching, disfranchisement, caste, brutality and devilish insult—for this, in the hateful upturning and mixing of things, we were forced by vindictive fate to fight also.