The 'They Came To Fight' exhibition is presented below in its full virtual glory. The exhibition is a testament to the bravery and pioneering efforts of the African American community and their willingness to stand in the face of adversity.
Plessy vs. Ferguson
On June 7, 1892, Homer Adelph Plessy boarded a train in New Orleans, Louisiana, and sat in the white passenger car. An African American whose light complexion allowed him to pass for white, Plessy announced his transgression and was asked to leave and take a seat in the colored car. Plessy refused the demands of the conductor and was arrested and jailed under the jurisdiction of Judge John H. Ferguson...
Image of "Negro Expulsion" from Illustrated London News, circa 1856
The Niagara Movement, circa 1905-07
From July 11th to 14th, 1905, under the direction of the civil rights activist and leader William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963), twenty-nine African American professionals, scholars and community leaders gathered in Ontario, Canada near Niagara Falls....
Mary Church Terrell (1865-1954), circa, 1890-1900
Born September 23, 1865 into a middle-class African American family, Mary Church (1865-1954) would receive a “classical” education at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio. In 1891, she married Robert Terrell and moved to Washington, D.C., where her beliefs in the equality of men and women led her to found the Colored Woman’s League in 1892...
Death at the Hands of Persons Unknown
Lynching – the brutal ritualistic killing of African Americans – was the mechanism that whites used to intimidate blacks from asserting themselves and demanding both their human and civil rights...
As World War I began, the number of European immigrants entering the work force declined, thereby creating the opportunity for African Americans to find gainful employment in the North with companies supporting the war effort.Historically represented as the “promised land,” African Americans identified the regions...
Image from The Negro in Chicago: A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot, 1922
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) from Scott's Official History of the American Negro in the World War (1919)
A former history professor and president of Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) is recognized for his moral vision and leadership during his two terms as President of the United States.However, Wilson’s relationship with African American leadership of the time is regarded as the most trying and disappointing...
“Mr. Trotter and Mr. Wilson” from The Crisis, June 1915"
President Wilson’s decision to segregate government offices came under fire of a delegation of African American community leaders. Led by the editor of the black newspaper The Guardian, Monroe Trotter, a Harvard Graduate, met with Wilson to protest the injustice that had befallen his race.Wilson explained that the policy was not discriminatory but enacted to reduce friction between black and white employees. This response infuriated the assertive and forceful Trotter, who did not refrain from making his disappointment in the President known directly to Wilson’s face. A screaming match between Trotter and Wilson soon ensued, and Trotter was ordered to leave the White House.
See the illustration - image courtesy of the Crisis
Film Stills depicting the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, circa 1915
Film director D.W. Griffith introduced The Birth of a Nation in 1915, which served to support the idea of America as a “white man’s country.” An adaptation of the novel written by Thomas Dixon entitled The Clansman (1902), The Birth of a Nation was a success with white audiences, who believed the racist stereotypes promoted on the screen were, in fact, true...
Film stills from the Birth of a Nation
W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963), J.E. Purdy, 1904
In the June 1918 issue of The Crisis, W.E.B. Du Bois argues for the need of African Americans to take advantage of the opportunity to serve as soldiers in the United States military. Du Bois believed that by securing the future of democracy for the free world, African Americans could finally claim the full-citizenship rights and privileges they deserved. In the editorial Du Bois wrote...
Major Charles Young (1864-1922), from The Crisis (March 1916)
Born in 1864, Charles Young (1864-1922) would distinguish himself in the United States military as a noble, loyal and trustworthy soldier, and citizen of the United States. In 1889, Young, the son of former slaves, would become the third African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point...
Fort Des Moines, from The Crisis (June 1918)
On October 1917, the first training camp established for African American officers and non-commissioned officer candidates, Fort Des Moines (Iowa), graduated more than 639 junior officers ready for service: 106 captains; 329 first lieutenants; and, 204 second lieutenants.
General John J. Pershing, from Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War (1919)
During World War I, General John J. Pershing (1860-1948) served as the commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in France. Considered the greatest general in American history, second only to President George Washington, the native Missourian fought in the Indian...
War Women Workers at Camp Grant, from Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War (1919)
During the war, Harlem Renaissance writer and women’s rights activist, Alice Dunbar Nelson served as a field organizer for the Woman’s Committee on the Council of Defense. Realizing that the work of African American women serving as War Women Workers would be omitted...