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370th Infantry Regiment in World War I

The Old 8th Illinois was an African American militia regiment in Illinois and it was reformed in 1898 for service during the Spanish American War (April 21 – December 10, 1898). The unit was notable because unlike other American military regiments at the time, its officers were African American. Its armory, built in 1914 in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, was the first armory built in the United States for an African American unit.

World War I with the 93rd (Provisional) Infantry Division

Activated as part of the 370th Infantry Regiment, this National Guard unit served with the French and the Harlem Hellfighters, an African American National Guard unit from New York. They were initially expected to provide labor support to other units.  However, once overseas and placed under a French command, they saw extensive combat. 

Commanded by Col. Otis B. Duncan, the unit was known for its fierce fighting in the Argonne region of France. During World War I, the 370th was nicknamed by the enemy the Black Devils due to their tenacity and fearless pursuit. This nickname was embraced by the unit and is still in use today.

Due to their valor, the unit was highly decorated for its time. Soldiers from the unit were awarded 21 Distinguished Service Crosses from the United States, one Distinguished Service medal from the United States, and 68 Croix de Guerre Awards from France. 

Legacy of the 370th Infantry Regiment

On the south side of Chicago in the Bronzeville neighborhood, this Chicago unit is remembered for its World War I service with the Victory Monument.

Because of discrimination present during and after World War I, individual cases for upgrades to the Medal of Honor of American soldiers are currently being researched by scholars in the George S. Robb Centre for the Study of the Great War at Park University. These cases include some soldiers from the 93rd Infantry Division who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. The DuSable Museum in Chicago features an exhibit on the Old 8th Illinois.


Interested in Learning More?

Check out these videos from the Museum & Library: 

We Return Fighting: African Americans in WWI and the Early Civil Rights Museum 


Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality


For Further Reading...

Fisher, W. Douglas, and Joann H Buckley. African American Doctors of World War I: The Lives of 104 Volunteers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc, 2016.

Roberts, Frank E. The American Foreign Legion: Black Soldiers of the 93d in World War I. An Association of the U.S Army Book. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2004.

Sammons, Jeffrey T, and John Howard Morrow. Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment & the African American Quest for Equality. Modern War Studies. Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2014.


For More on African American Soldiers in World War I

We Return Fighting Book Cover

We Return Fighting: World War I and the Shaping of Modern Black Identity

A richly illustrated commemoration of African Americans' roles in World War I highlighting how the wartime experience reshaped their lives and their communities after they returned home.


Lest We Forget Book Cover

Lest We Forget: The Great War

Featuring an introduction by WWI historian and author Sir Hew Strachan and history by Michael W. Robbins, it is a wonderful resource for anyone who wants to learn about World War One.


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