In The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial are many untold or little told stories of World War I. You don’t have to peruse too many issues to have your assumptions overturned. This was truly a world war.
The accounts are condescending at best, if not outright racist and downright offensive. But they do illuminate how the war on the Western Front sent its tentacles to the ends of empire.
“Colored Races Helping the Allies” was the headline over a page of photographs published June 28, 1917, that included the picture above.
“Both Great Britain and France have thickly populated colonies inhabited by colored races and capable of performing all kinds of labor so that men may be released for the fighting front,” The Times said. “The tendency has been to take as few colored men as possible to Europe, but the demand for labor has been so great that considerable numbers have been imported to do the work which is usually performed by unskilled laborers, and for which women are not strong enough.”
“If the British and French governments so desired, they could easily solve the labor shortage problem by importing unlimited numbers of colored colonials. But the labor unions, especially in England, are opposed to such a policy. It is important to note that few colored men have been used as soldiers, the exceptions being mainly troops from Algeria and British India.”
Times Insider is offering glimpses of some of the most memorable wartime illustrations that appeared in The New York Times Mid-Week Pictorial, on the 100th anniversary of each issue:
• A “dead town” in northern France (June 21)• Immigrants among draft registrants (June 14)• Terror on the high seas (June 7)• General Pershing asks for reprints (May 31)• A uniform out of “Star Wars” (May 24)• The Germans lose Cameroon (May 17)• Marshall Joffre captures Capitol Hill (May 10)• Aerial reconnaissance grows (May 3)• Teenage German prisoners (April 26)• French towns are liberated (April 19)• America joins the war (April 12)