Black WWI soldiers honored at Historic Columbia site

Some local historians feel that black soldiers who fought in WWI have been forgotten and their stories left untold, and Veteran’s Day was the perfect day to come together and share those stories. These particular soldiers were honored at Historic Columbia’s Mann-Simons site.

“Everyone talks about WWII, but it was really the soldiers of WWI who brought the nation together and made it the democracy we live in,” Sonya Hodges-Grantham said, a local historian and preservationist.

Hodges-Grantham's grandfather was a veteran. (photo provided)

Hodges-Grantham’s grandfather was a veteran. (photo provided)

Hodges-Grantham’s grandfather was from Columbia and was also an African-American veteran.

“My grandfather’s service in the 371st sparked my interest at a young age, and consequently I have dedicated my life to research and honor the men who fought in World War I,” she said.

Photographs, historical facts and warm stories about her relationship with her grandfather were told to a small, diverse crowd.

Janet Hudson, a professor at the University of South Carolina, assisted Hodges-Grantham in leading the conversations. Hudson is also an author of the book Entangled by White Supremacy: Reform in World War I-era South Carolina. Hudson is white and says the issue of white supremacy is something she feels very passionately about.

“White supremacy is not necessarily about extremists,” Hudson explained. “It is about the belief system that if you are born white, you are inherently better.”

“My students, at first, are skeptical because I am white and I teach African-American history,” she said. “I can be critical of white southerners, because I am a white southerner.”

Hudson believes the black soldiers who fought in WWI have never gotten the attention they deserve.

The space for the lecture at the Mann-Simons site was about the size of a small living room and every seat was filled.

“It was important for Historic Columbia to highlight these local stories and have an African American connection,” Robin Waites said, executive director of Historic Columbia.

Lectures and discussions will continue at the sites of Historic Columbia. For more information click here.


Categories: Military