- March 11, 2016
-- This year's St. Patrick's Day parade, hosted by the Downtown Dover Partnership, features the only known organization of World War One re-enactors portraying the famous "colored" segregated unit of the U.S. Army. Ebony Doughboys (www.ebonydoughboys.org)
, established in 2015, will march again down West Loockerman Street. In 1918, the 93rd
Infantry Division was comprised of four infantry regiments: 369th
and the 372nd
. It produced heroes like: Corporals Freddie Stowers, Henry Johnson, and Needham Roberts; Lieutenant James Reese Europe and two Delawareans, Private Lewis A. Taylor and Jenkins Fennel, who both were killed in action (Champagne Sector). The Division's "attachment"
to the Fourth French Army was an awkward function of the times. Racial segregation in the military left few options for African Americans as officers and combat soldiers who could not serve alongside their white counterparts. It was easier to "loan" these soldiers to the French who desperately needed reinforcements. The vast majority, ninety percent, of African Americans were limited to the Services of Supply (SOS).
Yet why march in a St. Patrick's Day parade? "March 17th
, 1918 was when the 369th
received their orders to join the French Fourth Army for combat training; before then these trained soldiers were used for labor," says Art Collins, Founder of the Ebony Doughboys. "The performance of the 369th
, better known today as the Harlem Hellfighters
, under fire changed everything,"
he added. The Ebony Doughboys last appeared in Dover for the Delaware Veterans Parade on November 7th
, 2015. Joining them were six students from Caesar Rodney High School's Air Force Junior ROTC program. They marched together in full U.S. WWI uniforms supplied by the group, led by Mr. Collins.
Fourteen percent of the First State's WWI servicemen were of color. "Like so many states, Delaware has a special Great War legacy and the Ebony Doughboys not only honor the service, but broaden the human story of these heroes which is vital as we approach the centenary of America's entry into that global conflict," commented Steven W. Jones, head of development. When not re-enacting, the group has been invited to participate in lecture series and events, the most recent, The National Museum of the United States Army's The Soldier Experience in February. "Bottom-line, it's about impact; such as reaching out to the general public and young people, especially to those of color, connecting them to the history. It was a new activity we have been encouraged to develop," added Mr. Jones.