The self-forgetful loyalty to the interests and cause of others even where it conflicts with self-interest has been shown repeatedly as a characteristic attitude of Negroes. Expression of this loyalty has been given in many directions through centuries of association, not only with the white man, but with other races and between African tribes. In South Africa, natives must be employed on terms that allow periodic visits to their ancestral tribes. Otherwise, the employer often finds his servants have departed -anyway because of the call of the native kraal and the requirements of tribal ceremony. Loyalty to persons has led to the selection of Negroes for almost every great historic exploring expedition, from the voyages of Columbus to America, of Balboa on the Pacific, to the days when Matthew Henson, a Negro, was sole companion of Admiral Peary on the final lap of his journey to the North Pole.
1 See "Four Open Letters to the College Men of the South," issued by the University Race Commission, 1916-20.
2 See collection of letters of Negro migrants published in Journal of Negro History, Vol. IV, No. 3, pp. 291-340, July, 1919; No. 4, pp. 412-465, Oct., 1919.
This attitude of loyalty has been shown remarkably in the Negro's relation to the American flag, the symbol of our "land of the free and home of the brave." An account of his offerings for the liberty of our country is illustrative of his loyalty. Hundreds of Negro soldiers joined the Revolutionary Army and suffered all the privations of that struggle, including the winter with Washington at Valley Forge. Many Negroes made the supreme sacrifice in the War of 1812. The story of Negro heroes during the Civil War is well known. The accounts of the engagements at Fort Picket and Fort Wagner, at Petersburg, at Fredericksburg, at Gettysburg, and elsewhere would be very incomplete without the story of their exploits. In the Spanish-American War the charge at El Caney and the capture of its block house was one of the strategic battles of that war. In the Philippines and in Mexico at Carrizal many Negro troopers made records of heroism that should be given their merited setting in our historical skies. Many demonstrations of the Negro's loyalty during the World War are described in Chapter IV (The Negro'S Offering To The Stars And Stripes).
The crowning feature of this loyalty, however, was greater than the tasks performed and the sacrifices made. Many who fought for American liberty in the revolutionary period were themselves slaves knowing that the Declaration of Independence did not secure the emancipation of their race. Negro soldiers of the Civil War did have hopes that their blood might wash away their bondage. But by the time of the Spanish-American War and the World War, Negroes of America knew that they had not received security of person, property, and liberty, and that in other ways their part in American democracy was less than that of other citizens. Mobs and lynch-ing, miscarriage of justice in the courts, disfranchisement at the polls, and other restrictions and discriminations had driven deep into their consciousness the knowledge that as yet they were not in fact full-fledged American citizens.
With this condition so plainly stamped upon their minds, yet more than a third of a million of Negroes during these two wars went forward in loyal devotion to dare and to do and to die to preserve the very liberty and democracy from the full enjoyment of which they knew that they and the majority of their race would be excluded by their white fellow-citizens. In the face of restrictions and humiliations, thousands of these men, sometimes fresh from camps where discriminations had been forced upon them, went "over the top" with other Americans to meet the enemies of their country. Many of them are sleeping their long, last sleep in the Philippines and on the fields of France, that America and the world may be "safe for democracy." The muse of history will search her archives for records that match or outstrip these annals of unselfish loyalty of a people! Why, then, can Justice withhold from the least of these full enjoyment of her protection? Christian America should give the answer.