1920 January 11

German Officials Slander African-American Troops


Officials in occupied Germany, it was reported today, slandered African-American troops deployed by the Allied armies in their country, accusing them of rape and other crimes. “Hardly a day passes,” claimed the Prussian Minister of Finance, without a report of some dastardly crime committed by Negro soldiers . . . against German wives and daughters.” He then added that “Rapine and murder may well become a pastime of these black fiends . . . .”

At issue was an Edict of occupation, which provided criminal penalties for any German whose “words, manners or attitude” toward the Occupation officials and/or the”troops of occupation” appears “improper or insulting.” As a result, German crime victims would be afraid to report crime and accuse Allied troops of crime. The racist nature of the complaint was evident in the fact that the Finance Minister statement implied that only African-American troops were responsible for whatever crimes occurred.

The official U.S. Army response stated that no “Negro units” were then stationed in Germany (the U.S. armed forces were racially segregated at this time). It said nothing in response to the categorical slander of African-American troops.

President Harry Truman desegregated the U.S. armed forces by executive order on July 26, 1948.

Find a timeline on African Americans in the U.S. military here.

Learn more about African American history: Henry Louis Gates, Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (2011)


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