Wednesday, June 13, 2018

WWI African Americans Remembered: William Earnest Warren

WWI African Americans Remembered

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In preparation for the Heritage Festival on June 23, Sandra Aldridge with the Richmond-Miles History Museum in Yanceyville, researched the late William Earnest Warren, an African American who served in World War I. According to Aldridge a book was written about Caswell County veterans in 1921, but African Americans were left out. Aldridge's biography on Warren will be one piece of many on African Americans available for view next Saturday.

African Americans, who were back then called "colored" or "negroes," had a corner of the draft card folded, said Aldridge, They were made to be quickly sorted out and segregated, she said. "Guess which ones got sent off at a higher percentage?" she said. "A bad thing is that many volunteered to serve their country to prove that they weren't second class citizens. Yet, they were given labor and service roles, because people believed they shouldn't carry a gun back then. They dragged dead bodies and performed hard labor and when they came back home, nothing had changed."

Warren registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, in Yanceyville. He was listed as being 23 years old and single. There is no exact date listed for his birth, although census records indicate 1893. His occupation was listed as farm laborer, on his father's farm in the Topnot community. Warren's draft card was signed by Julius Johnston, who was serving on the Local Draft Board. Warren was inducted into military service on March 30, 1918. He was sent to Camp Grant in Rockford, Ill., for his training and was attached to the 22nd Co. of the 161st Depot Brigade until April 28, 1918.

"Most of the African Americans here went off to Charlotte, to Camp Greene," said Aldridge. Warren then served with the 24th Co. of the 161st until May 27, 1918. His last days of service were with Co. D. of the 323rd Quartermaster Labor Battalion. He departed from Hoboken, N.J., aboard the U.S.S. Manchuria on July 10, 1918. Warren died a private on July 22, 1918, as a result of a brain concussion. He is commemorated in perpetuity at the Oisne-Aisne Cemetery in Seringes-Et-Nesles, France. The 35.5 acre cemetery contains the remains of 6,012 American soldiers who lost their lives while fighting in the vicinity.

Warren is memorialized on the WWI Monument that stands in Yanceyville Town Square. His parents were Rev. Spencer P. Warren and Dina Johnson Warren. The federal census records indicated his siblings as Mollie Warren, Lunie Warren, Fannie Warren, Sam Warren, and Eurie Warren. His father served as the pastor of Sweetgum Missionary Baptist Church.

For more information or to provide information on African Americans who served in WWI, contact 336-421-9524;

Source: The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyville, North Carolina), 13 June 2018.

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