Nov112009

For Veterans’ Day

The following two newspaper notes appeared almost next to one another in the same Aug. 9, 1918 edition of the Palatka Times-Herald:

Negro Registrants Given Big Send Off Sunday

Sunday afternoon at 5 o’clock the colored registrants under the last orders entrained for Camp Devens, Mass., to enter upon training for service. About 150 men from all parts of the county reported. An immense crowd, both whites and colored, assembled and gave the departing soldiers to be rousing send off.

Lieut. Walton Heard From.

Letters received from Lieut. W. N. Walton — in France — one written before he was injured and the other sent from the hospital where he is convalescing satisfactorily– give information of interest. He writes that he was wounded by a shell exploding within a few feet of where he was standing. Seven bits of shrapnel struck him, inflicting painful wounds, all of which have healed, however, save one on the right foot. His host of friends trust to soon note his complete restoration to his usual good health.

Lt. Walton was J.V.’s brother, my great, great uncle. You’ll notice that he was deemed worthy of more space than the 150 black men sent off to war by an apparently integrated crowd. In 1917, as Paul Ortiz documents in “Emancipation Betrayed,” blacks in Putnam County outregistered whites in Putnam County 341 to 254. That does not even count the 150-250 blacks (I haven’t been able to settle on precise numbers) who enlisted in 1918, the group noted in the paper above. Bottom line, blacks in Putnam County were twice as patriotic, per capita, as their white counterparts in the World War I era.

Remember that when hear Sarah Palin or Pat Buchanan or whoever else talk about who the real Americans are and were.

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