...Chapter XXVIII

...Social Welfare Agencies


Important Welfare Work of the Young Men's Christian Association, and Other Organized Bodies---Negro Secretaries of the Y. M. C. A.---The Problem of Illiteracy in the, Camps---The Social Secretaries---Results of Education---The Y. W. C. S. Hostess Houses---The Knights of Columbus---Caring for Returned Soldiers.

Prior to the outbreak of the war it was a well-established fact that the Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, the Red Cross, and other organized bodies primarily concerned with the welfare of people in general, had figured so largely in the life of the young men prior to their call to arms that something should be done to enable these agencies to throw around them the same influences under which they came when at home. One of the first efforts, therefore, to provide for the social betterment of the men under arms was to connect these movements officially with the Government, that they might function efficiently in caring for the soldiers at the front. It was observed that the social welfare organizations could adapt themselves as successfully to the needs of men in times of war as in times of peace. At the beginning of the war the War Work Council declared that the same thing done for white men would be done for colored men when in the various cantonments, and while it has been difficult to carry out this letter of the law, for many reasons too tedious to be mentioned, Dr. J. E. Moorland, the Senior Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association in charge of colored men's work, believes that the Negro has come more nearly to receiving a square deal in this instance than in anything else in the history of the country.

When the unusual appeal was made to the American people, adequate funds were raised to finance the work of the welfare organizations. Nearer to the end of hostilities, however, when a more systematic effort for financing all of these social organizations had to be made, the Government provided that all such agencies should be absorbed by the seven recognized groups, and a national drive for $170,000,000 was made by these organizations, resulting in raising the desired amount. They were therefore at an early period in a position to construct successful machinery for the training of social workers to supply these needs throughout the camps in this country and among the soldiers overseas. While it must be admitted that it was impossible to choose upon such short notice persons who met in every way the requirements for this unusual task, the personnel of the Young Men's Christian Association staff so far as the colored workers were concerned were of a high class.

At the head of this staff, to select and equip for this unusual service the numerous secretaries needed in the camps and cantonments, was Dr. J. E. Moorland, Senior Secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association. Associated with him was Mr. Robert B. DeFrautz, visiting secretary of the Des Moines camp, and formerly engaged in the work at Kansas City, Missouri. There were also the placement secretaries, Mr. William J. Faulkner and Mr. Max Yergan, who after his return from Africa, assisted in recruiting men; Professor Charles H. Wesley of Howard University doing similar work. J. Francis Gregory and George L. Johnson, two specialists in religious work, were later added. The former directed his efforts toward the religious life of the men in the camps, while the latter, a noted tenor, rendered valuable service with his singing.

Negro Secretaries of the Y. M. C. A.

At the beginning of the War Work Council it was decided to send Negro secretaries to care for troops of their own race. There were fifty-five centers or groups in Army camps with Association privileges, served by two hundred and sixty-eight secretaries in the home camps and forty-nine secretaries serving overseas. The grand total of all colored secretaries was three hundred and thirty-one. The buildings in which these secretaries worked were twenty-five "E" type and National Guard buildings. The other centers were housed in barracks, mess halls, and tents.

This work, too, according to Dr. J. E. Moorland, its moving spirit,

"was not a haphazard one. It had a definite purpose, promoted by carefully selected specialists. To be more explicit, it is well to describe a staff organization which is responsible for the work in a building. It is composed of a building secretary, who is the executive; a religious work secretary, who has charge of the religious activities, including personal work among the soldiers, Bible class and religious meetings; an educational secretary, who promotes lectures and educational classes, and uses whatever means he may have at hand to encourage intellectual development; a physical secretary, who has charge of athletics and various activities for the physical welfare of the soldiers, works in the closest relationship with the military officers and is often made responsible for all of the physical activities in the camp; a social secretary, who promotes the social activities, including entertainments, "stunts" and moving pictures; a business secretary, who keeps close tab on the sale of stamps, postcards, and such supplies as may be handled by the Association, and is held responsible for the proper accounting of finances. In every case these secretaries were thoroughly investigated before being appointed and were required to be members of evangelical churches in good standing, and men capable of commanding the respect of the soldiers with whom they work.

The Problem of Illiteracy

"The large number of illiterates who were brought into the various camps of the country brought with them a tremendous problem. Many of them could not sign the payroll. Some of them did not know the right from the left hand, and not a few were not sure about their names. The Association was able to. solve this problem by teaching thousands of men to read and write their names. "Some men after having learned to write their names," says Dr. Moorland, "have actually shouted for joy over the new-found power which at last had released them from the shackles of an oppressive ignorance. Speakers of both races have inspired the men and enlarged their vision. Many men with a better educational equipment have increased their talents by sober thinking along with-purposeful programs of reading.

Illustrations in Chapter XXVIII

"The religion of the soldiers was not neglected. Hundreds of Bible classes were conducted and religious meetings with purpose were largely attended. The best of both races have been able to give encouragement and helpful messages to the men, many of whom have had their faith strengthened; many others for the first time in their lives accepted the Christian faith. The effort was to give a religious program adapted to the lives of the men and enable them to go overseas and come back fit to look mother, wife, sister, and sweetheart in the face and not be ashamed.

"The emphasis, however, was placed upon life, and speakers were requested to avoid emphasizing death. Although the training in the army camps is physical development to a very marked degree, it was soon learned that there must be a recreational side. The physical director had to meet this need to prevent men from becoming sullen and morose. Baseball teams, football teams, boxing and all sorts of recreational games were staged. These proved to be as essential in the matter of self-defense as lectures and private talks on health and the protection of the body against the ravages of every form of vice."

Work of the Social Secretaries

The social secretaries rendered no less a service than the other workers. In providing programs for the entertainment of the men, in presenting interesting moving pictures, in utilizing the talent of various communities near the camps for the needs of the men in camps, they accomplished a task which in the past had seemed impossible. The social secretary, moreover, enabled these men to entertain themselves. The Selective Draft brought together men of all grades, from the most illiterate to the highly trained university graduate, messing together side by side daily. Men. who had lived in the atmosphere of vice and those who had been trained in the best Christian homes were thrown together in a common cause, wearing the same uniform, obeying the same orders. In this great mass the social secretary discovered remarkable talent, which was able to provide entertainment for the soldiers in the camps and at certain times for the people outside the camps.

According to Dr. Moorland, the letters of appreciation received from many of the soldiers for the service rendered by these faithful secretaries sound like a new edition of the Acts of the Apostles. "Not only in France are our men serving. We also have secretaries in East Africa, working with natives and British troops, and their story is that of pioneers laying foundations as Christian statesmen for the building of future manhood in that great continent; for they are serving men representing tribes from all parts of the continent of Africa, and these men are learning what unselfish service means as well as, in many cases, learning to read and write in the little evening schools provided for them."

There were thirty-nine official directors, giving their entire attention to directing recreational activities and thirty secretaries who served as song leaders. There were six or more secretaries, physical and social directors, however, to do recreational work and direct singing. It has been estimated that two million men attended these various centers for Negro soldiers every month; that there were two hundred lectures with an attendance of eighty a month; ten thousand Scriptures circulated every month; nine thousand personal interviews; seven thousand Christian decisions; eleven thousand war roll singers; one hundred and twenty-five thousand taking part in physical activities; five hundred motion picture exhibitions with an attendance of three hundred thousand; 1,250,000 letters written., and $110,000 worth of money orders sold.

Important Results of Education

Out of such unusual efforts to educate, in fact to remake, the enlisted man, came important results. The Negro soldier was brought, so to speak, from a sequestered vale into the broad light of modern times, where various agencies which have constituted a leverage in the elevation of men gave him during these few months more opportunity for mental improvement than he had experienced during the other part of his life. Thousands of men were not only taught to read and write, but also formed the habit of reading good books, which in a short time showed results in the appreciation of higher ideals and in giving them a more intelligent attitude toward life. These agencies, too, operating among the whites and the blacks equally deficient in education during their early careers, tended to promote better relationship between the races and as a result to produce a higher class of men.

The record of these secretaries was highly commendable. First among those to attain recognition was Dr. Geo. W. Cabaniss, of Washington, D. C., known for a long time as the dean of the colored secretaries, a man who had much to do with making possible the camp for the training of the colored officers at Fort Des Moines; and who after the camp had been provided went Into the service with them to serve these young men as a Y. M. C. A. secretary. Returning home after they were commissioned, Dr. Cabaniss abandoned his lucrative practice in the city of Washington and went to Camp Meade to serve as a secretary at one of the Y. M. C. A. huts. Being a Christian gentleman, Dr. Cabaniss was especially anxious to look after the morals of the young men, and in the end he was glad to report that the habits in general of the men who came under his supervision were of a very high order, and that they exhibited evidences of being men who would make good at the front. Among those who won distinction in reaching men may also be mentioned Matthew W. Bullock, William Stevenson, and J. C. Wright.

Distinguished Service of Supervisors

Some mention should be made also of those men of color who although Y. M. C. A. workers went to France for supervision, to render a larger service than that of the average social worker. Among them were Mr. Max Yergan, President John Hope of Morehouse College, and Dr. H. H. Proctor of the First Congregational Church, Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Max Yergan had already rendered distinguished service as an earnest worker among the British troops of color in Africa. His work in France, like that of President Hope, was largely that of a field secretary to consider cases of friction, discipline, and general difficulty and to administer affairs which could not be attended to by the staff on this side of the Atlantic. It was only late in the war that Dr. Proctor answered the call to engage in this same work. These gentlemen, in manifesting a spirit of sacrifice and interest in the welfare of, the men at the front, not only exhibited examples worthy of emulation, but rendered the race and the country a distinguished service.

The Y. W. C. A. Hostess Houses

The work had not gone forward very far when the peculiar need for a plan by which the wives and daughters of the enlisted men might visit them at camp necessitated the bringing in of women as Y. W. C. A. workers. It was accordingly provided that each of these camps, wherever practicable, should have hostess houses, to be placed in charge of a woman of honor. The hostess house was a means of communication between the enlisted men and their relatives. Here the sweetheart came to say good-bye to her loved one, the wife to see her husband for the last time, and the mother to bid her son farewell. The Y. W. C. A. maintained a colored hostess house in every camp where there were colored soldiers, the plan being the same as that for the white soldiers. The official report states that these houses "are not only hospitality centers, but also demonstrations to visitors of the best ways of entertaining and of serving food. Many men and women are here first brought in contact with high yet simple standards of social intercourse. Each house is a training center for new colored social workers."

The heads of these houses are among the best known women of the race, many of whom have been doing social work of a high type among their people for years. The need for such women, of course, was experienced abroad, but there was much objection to the sending of women of color to the front, just as there had been in the case of barring them from the Red Cross units. In the course of time, however, this prejudice was overcome and it was possible to send a number of women of color to serve in the hostess houses in France. The first of these to sail was Mrs. Helen Noble Curtis of New York, the widow of the late James L. Curtis, Minister Resident of the United States to Liberia. For a number of years she had been a member of the committee of management of the colored women's branch of the Y. W. C. A. As she had been in France and had learned to speak the language thoroughly, she was much desired for this work.

The appointment of Mrs. Curtis proved to be such a success that another colored secretary was sent over in the following month. This was Mrs. Addie W. Hunton of Brooklyn, New York, widow of the late William A. Hunton, the first International Secretary of the Y. M. C. A. for colored men in America. She is an educated woman of excellent standing and had for a number of years been a moving spirit in Y. W. C. A. work. She had also traveled in Europe, studied at the University of Strasburg, and formed certain connections which enabled her to render the race invaluable service abroad. Mrs. Hunton was soon followed by Miss Kathryn M. Johnson, and later by twelve or more women of the same high character.

Tributes to Y. M. C. A. Workers

"The colored Y. M. C. A. workers here in France," said Ralph W. Tyler, working under handicaps, and limited, as to numbers, in proportion to the number of white Y. M. C. A. workers, and considering the proportionate number of colored soldiers in France, have been paid a high tribute by Colonel (now General) W. F. Creary. Writing to Win. Stevenson, colored Y. M. C. A. secretary of Hut No. 2, General Creary said:

" 'I have seen the workings of your huts along the line, from the frontline trenches to the base ports, and have been a personal recipient of the comforts afforded by them on many occasions.

" 'I have always been impressed by the zeal with which the secretaries, and others, have prosecuted their work, with untiring energy, and with their valor and bravery, for the work at the front cannot be done except by real red-blooded men.

" 'I have been particularly interested in the activities of your huts, devoted exclusively to the interests of colored soldiers since my assumption of the command of this camp, and I congratulate you on the progress you have made, and are making now.

" 'Besides the splendid athletic, social; and canteen service offered by yourself and your assistants, I have been much impressed by your activities in the educational departments, and have been much pleased to see many of OUR Colored soldiers, who have had but few advantages of early education, availing themselves of the advantages offered by you for the acquirement of knowledge of the elementary branches of education.

" 'Your thrift department is the means of many of OUR men saving their money and purchasing money orders to send back home, thereby placing their money where it should be. '

"In Mr. Stevenson's hut, Mrs. James L. Curtis looks after the canteen, and most laudably aids in the work of comforting the thousands of colored boys who are contributing their might in the interest of world democracy. Mr. Stevenson, to whom General Creary wrote this commendatory letter, is a Cincinnati, Ohio, boy, and he fairly bubbles in his enthusiasm in his work for colored soldiers.

"While visiting this particular point, I came in contact with the work of colored Y. M. C. A. people, who are seconding and cooperating with the work of the Army in a most effective way. Here I met Mrs. James L. Curtis, widow of our late Minister to Liberia, who is idolized by the men in the camp in which is located the particular Y. M. C. A. hut in which she labors. I also came in contact with and investigated the splendid work of Miss Kathryn Johnson, of Chicago, and Mrs. A. W. Hunton, the other two colored women Y. M. C. A. workers over here, and, unfortunately, the only three (with Mrs. Curtis) colored women assigned over here for war work by the Y. M. C. A. The effect of the work these three splendid colored women have done, and will continue to do, will be in evidence long after this war has been fought to a glorious peace. Here I also met the following colored Y. M. C. A. secretaries: Franklin Nichols, of Philadelphia, who has been here for more than a year; Prof. Moses A. Davis, of Evansville, Ind.; Rev. D. Leroy Ferguson, erstwhile rector of the Colored Episcopal church at Louisville, Ky.; Leon James, J. Green, and Wm. Stevenson. When I considered that all these Y. M. C. A. people, and most especially the women, forsook comfortable homes and zones of culture and refinement to come over here and, far from immediate relatives and friends, bury themselves among these colored soldiers in order that the greatest possible amount of sunshine might be shoved into the lives of these men helping to establish world democracy, I could not help but feel that those of the race, back in the states, who are at an absolutely safe distance from German bullets, shrapnel and gas, should consecrate themselves, also, so far as within their power, to the rendering of aid and comfort to these soldiers of ours.

"When I visited the hospital at this point and noted the many colored boys who were bearing their illness with a cheerfulness that was amazing, I could not help but feel much of the criticism one hears back in the states could well be held in abeyance and instead the efforts put forth in criticism expended in sympathy and efforts for 'our own' boys who are here so many thousand miles from home, enduring cheerfully for their country's sake.

"The 'Work being performed by the stevedores, and by these colored Y. M. C. A. workers in the camps I have just visited, and the amicable relations existing between them and superior army officers, I feel certain, would be as disillusioning to the race back home as it has been, in many respects, to me.

"Here one finds these colored men performing nearly every kind of work, skilled and unskilled. Their camp is a model of cleanliness---a cleanliness that would put to shame most of our cities back in the States, and a cleanliness in which the colored boys take a commendable pride. A fine brass band here, composed exclusively of stevedores, frequent moving picture showings, educational work, etc., conspire to make the 'after work' hours of these thousands of colored service men pass quickly and profitably. Recently General Pershing visited this camp and gave the boys an interesting talk, which has since been regarded by them as epochal.

"Thus far, my only regret is that there were not more colored Y. M. C. A. workers over here to enlarge and spread the splendid work being done by Mrs. Curtis, Mrs. Hunton and Miss Johnson. The right sort of women, fine, big-hearted, devoted colored women, have such a refining influence in camps such as this, and the colored Y. M. C. A. secretaries themselves are anxious for them, and feel that colored women, to a number proportionate with the number of white women sent over by the Y. M. C. A., would further tend to make camp life for these soldiers ideal, and render easier the disciplinary work of the army."

Early in April, 1919, some ten or twelve additional well-educated, solid, substantial women were selected and sent to France to work among colored soldiers and to supply the need mentioned by Mr. Tyler.

The Knights of Columbus

Another organization was of much service in making Negro soldiers comfortable at the front. This was the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic society, which has to its credit that, unlike the other social welfare organizations operating in the war, it never drew the color line. It provided separate huts for Negroes at some of the camps when special requests to this effect were received. These were recreational buildings, provided with home surroundings for the preparation of which no pains were spared. Such arrangements were made at Camp Meade, Camp Dodge, Camp Funston, Fort Riley and Camp Taylor. As an evidence of the general liberality of the management of the war work conducted by the Knights of Columbus, no better testimony can be given than that by Joseph J. Canavan in a report to the Kansas Plain-Dealer.

"Under the system as it now has been working out," says he, "the Negro soldier needs no other countersign than his khaki uniform to gain for him every advantage offered by the Knights' service. True there are places both in this country and abroad where the Knights of Columbus have erected special huts for the use of the Negro soldiers, but where that has been done it has been at the express request of the Negro soldiers themselves, who in numerous instances have expressed a preference for a building of their own where they may enjoy their own pleasure in their own way and be assured of meeting their own friends when and where and under circumstances they desired. Similarly the other day," says he, "when there were six Negro soldiers in training at, Port Jervis, New York, on their way to Goshen, New York, whence they were to start upon their journey to a training camp, it was a group of Knights of Columbus' secretaries who met them and supplied them with cigarettes and tobacco." It happened, however, that the six Negroes did not take a train for Port Jervis. Instead the Knights loaded them into automobiles and drove them across the pretty hilly country to their point of departure for the camps. There were only six men in that draft consignment, but the Knights would have been as hearty and as generous if there had been 600. There have been innumerable instances where a larger number of men have been cared for and had their wants provided for by the Knights, as the men themselves have testified.

Caring for Returned Soldiers

Upon the signing of the. Armistice and the return of soldiers from France, severing their connections with the social welfare organizations which had once cared for them, a serious problem presented itself to the American people, Many cities were stunned by the sudden influx of so many soldiers. In some cases small towns did not have facilities adequate to the task of accommodating the number which came even if it had been expecting them. Vice conditions in the communities became unspeakably bad, soldiers were mingling with lewd women, and when their funds became exhausted, they became dissatisfied and even rebellious. The situation was in every sense an acute one, but no one could be blamed and no one was willing to accept the responsibility for improving the situation.

Realizing the seriousness of this problem the whites and blacks endeavored to find some solution of the peculiar problem. This, however, was no problem peculiar to the Negro soldiers, for the whites were similarly situated. There were, however, a few narrow and prejudiced whites believing that anything was good enough for Negroes. There were also a good many men of color, and especially ministers and the like, who maintained an attitude of apathy towards these men returning from the war. Then there was, worst of all, a strained feeling between the whites and blacks in the various communities---a feeling apparently of long standing and intensified by war conditions. Upon the appearance, therefore, of a few unusual types of soldiers of both races, with the misdemeanors which usually characterize persons lacking self-control the situation was decidedly aggravated.

The War Camp Community Service

To find a way out of this difficulty it was planned to extend the War Camp Community Service. To various cities, and especially to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Augusta, Chattanooga, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and San Antonio, Texas, were sent directors to enlighten the communities as to the inevitable results of the war, the reason for the appearance of the returned soldiers in the towns, and their responsibility to these veterans. Their first problem was to reach the churches and the schools. They addressed mass meetings, spoke before social groups, and had personal conferences with men of influence, to find their way into the hearts of the people. The next step was to convince the community that such an effort was worth while. A club house, too often some abandoned dilapidated building, was secured and remodeled to suit the peculiar needs of the time. Adequate furniture and equipment for dormitories and cafeteria service were supplied and a desirable club with a file of newspapers, branch circulating library, a hall for entertainments, in fact a social center, was provided for service in the community. Men generally stood aloof, but it was soon found that while in some cases the support of the schools and the churches could not be obtained, some business men and professional men of intelligence, character, and vision came to the support of these War Camp Community Service workers, and it was not long before the entertainment and the atmosphere maintained by the center convinced a majority of the people of their importance and value.

It was soon possible thereafter to enlist the support of a larger number of influential people in the various communities. One organization after another engaged in the service and appeared at various times to entertain the soldiers assembled at-these centers. Out of such beginnings came the support of the churches and other religious organizations. It was necessary to add other men and even women to the staff, so rapid was the progress and so extensive was the work. Club activities increased; soldiers were visited in the various camps and hospitals, friendly relations were established and business men were brought together, so as to cause a contact helpful to them in other ways. It then became possible to organize clubs in school buildings and Sunday schools, and women in clubs worked together in a practical way whenever the opportunity came. Various ways in which they contributed may be summarized as follows: The community became reconciled and active in the service; it was then an. easy matter to welcome the returning soldiers. Provision was made for their entertainment in the theaters; community centers and concerts were arranged for them; large numbers of citizens attended the recreation rallies and entertainments, dinners, and dances multiplied throughout the period of demobilization,

Chapter XXIX. Negro Loyalty and Morale

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