Free speech for African Americans during World War I had to be exercised with great caution. The federal government, spurred by a superpatriotic and often alarmed white public, determined to suppress any dissent against the war and require 100% patriotism from the black population. These pressures were applied by America's modern political intelligence system, which emerged during the war. Its major partners included the Bureau of Investigation (renamed the FBI in 1935); the Military Intelligence Division; and the investigative arms of the Post Office and State departments. Numerous African American individuals and institutions, as well as 'enemy aliens' believed to be undermining black loyalty, became their targets.
Fears that the black population was being subverted by Germans multiplied as the United States entered the war in April 1917. In fact, only a handful of alleged enemy subversives were ever identified, and none were found to have done anything more than tell blacks that they had no good reason to fight, or that Germany would win. Nonetheless, they were punished under wartime legislation which criminalized anti-war advocacy.
Theodore Kornweibel, Jr. reveals that a much greater proportion of blacks was disenchanted with the war than has been previously acknowledged. A considerable number were privately apathetic, while others publically expressed dissatisfaction or opposition to the war.
Kornweibel documents the many forms of suppression used to intimidate African Americans, and contends that these efforts to silence black protest established precedents for further repression of black militancy during the postwar Red Scare.
Prologue: "Patriotism and Loyalty Presuppose Protection and Liberty"
Chapter 1. "It became necessary to investigate everything": The Birth of Modern Political Intelligence
Chapter 2. "Very full of the anti-war spirit": Fears of Enemy Subversion during World War I
Chapter 3. "Slackers, Delinquents, and Deserters": African Americans and Draft Enforcement during World War I
Chapter 4. "The most dangerous of all Negro journals": Federal Efforts to Silence the Chicago Defender
Chapter 5. "Every word is loaded with sedition": The Crisis and the NAACP under Suspicion
Chapter 6. "I thank my God for the persecution": The Church of God in Christ under Attack
Chapter 7. "Rabid and inflammatory": Further Attacks on the Pen and Pulpit
Chapter 8. "Spreading enemy propaganda": Alien Enemies, Spies, and Subversives
Chapter 9. "Perhaps you will be shot": Sex, Spies, Science, and the Moens Case
Chapter 10. "Negro Subversion": Army Intelligence Investigations during World War I
Epilogue: "The Negro is 'seeing red'": From the World War into the Red Scare
The enormous domestic US opposition to WW I (over ten percent of those drafted failed to appear for duty) and the ferocious repression that followed (including over 2,100 prosecutions for writing and speech), along with the emergence of modern political surveillance apparatus, has been largely forgotten. Kornweibel (Africana Studies, San Diego State Univ.) focuses on the repression of alleged black subversives that reflected phantasmagorical fears that widespread black apathy and opposition to the war was created by German agents or other outside agitators, when it merely reflected the inevitable alienation provoked by relentless US racism. (One sign, censored by police, which blacks attempted to carry during a 1917 demonstration, appealed to President Wilson to Bring Democracy to America before You Carry it to Europe.) Kornweibel's book provides a sound specialized complement to existing broader surveys of WW I repression, notably Opponents of War, 1917, 1918 (1957) by H.C. Peterson and Gilbert Fite, while amounting to a prequel to his earlier Seeing Red: Federal Campaigns against Black Militancy, 1919, 1925 (1998). Well organized and based on massive archival research, this book suffers from rather flat prose and the inclusion of considerable pointless detail. Upper—division undergraduates and above.~R. J. Goldstein
Kornweibel's book provides a sound specialized complement to existing broader surveys of WW I repression. . . while amounting to a prequel to his earlier Seeing Red: Federal Campaigns against Black Militancy, 1919–1925 (1998). Well organized and based on massive archival research. . . . Upper-division undergraduates and above.January 2003~Choice