The momentous registration day, June 5, 1917, came. It should be borne in mind that in only a few localities were Negro citizens allowed to serve as selective service registrars. Even with this racial enticement removed, the Negro men subject to the draft went without hesitation to the places of registration and listed their names as those who were ready to obey the law and to respond to the call of their country. In fact, some of the Southern newspapers said that the Negro had outstripped his white fellow-citizen in his readiness and promptness in responding to the call of his country. In many well established cases, Negro men who had ample ground for exemption, such as dependent families, did not claim it. Under the selective service regulations, the official reports show that 51.6 per cent of the Negro registrants were placed in Class I subject to first call, and only 32.5 per cent of the white registrants were so classified.1 It appears that Negroes formed nearly 8 per cent of the entire registration. Of the draftees certified for service, the first official report of the Provost Marshal General states that of every 100 Negro citizens called in the draft, 36 were certified for service and 64 rejected, exempted, or discharged, while for every 100 white citizens called, 25 were certified for service and 75 were rejected, exempted, or discharged.
1 Scott, E. J., work cited, p. 350.
The action of the Negro draftees in responding so heartily settled once for all the question as to whether German propaganda, mistreatment and denial of the rights, immunities and privileges of full citizenship, or any other cause would so affect the unalterable loyalty of Negro American citizens to the Stars and Stripes, the symbol of our democracy, as to cause them to hesitate when there was need that they offer themselves in its defense.
The Provost Marshal General in his second annual re- port to the Secretary of War commented on the situation thus:2 "Some doubt was felt and expressed, by the best friends of the Negro, when the call came for a draft upon the man power of the nation, whether he would possess sufficient stamina to measure up to the full duty of citizenship and would give to the Stars and Stripes that had guaranteed for him the same liberties sought for all nations and all races the response that was its due. And on the part of the leaders of the the men. At one or two camps Negro soldiers were provided with no sanitary conveniences, bathing facilities, or Y.M.C.A. service during the War period, until after white soldiers had left the station.
1 Scott, E. J., work cited, pp. 67-69.
2 Quoted in Scott, E. J., work cited, pp. 69-70.
During the course of the War many stories of unfair treatment and discrimination against colored soldiers in France came by way of letters and reports of soldiers who returned as the War went on. The suggestion was made by a committee of the Federal Council of the Churches that the Government send a delegation of three Negroes to investigate these complaints and make a report. This recommendation was approved, but the shortness of time between the suggestion and the end of the War, as well as the slow-working machinery in such matters, did not permit this suggestion to be carried out.