Researching my ancestry recently, I discovered my grandfather’s draft card.

grandfather_draft_card_sI wasn’t looking for anything more than the names and birth dates of his parents, but I happened to notice the lower left hand corner, which instructed as follows:

If person is of African descent, tear off this corner

I had not known about that before, but I saw it confirmed here:

The American military was entirely segregated during World War I. Although the military training of black Americans was staunchly opposed by white supremacist politicians such as Sen. James K. Vardaman (D-Mississippi) and Sen. Benjamin Tillman (D-South Carolina), the decision was nevertheless made to include African-Americans in the 1917 draft.[9] A total of 290,527 black Americans were ultimately registered for the draft during the two calls of June 2 and September 12, 1917 — 9.6 percent of the total American pool for potential conscription.[9]

Draft board officials were given the instruction to tear off the lower left-hand corner of the Selective Service forms filled out by black registrants to tag these for segregated units.[9] The August 1917 Houston Riot of armed African-American soldiers spurred by racist behavior by some Houston police officials additionally shaped the War Department’s decision-making, and the great majority of black soldiers were delegated to the building of roads, unloading of shipping, and other forms of common labor.[10] Only two combat units of African-Americans were ultimately established — the 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions.[11] Blacks were entirely excluded from the United States Marine Corps and consigned to menial labor in the United States Navy for the duration of the world war.[12]

Imagine, having a federal government that cared so much about race!