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Correspondence, Reports, and Minutes. World War I. Correspondence and Reports, 1918-1920. 1941. (Box 2, Folder 3)

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National Council of the Young Men's Christian Associations of the United States of America. Colored Work Department


YMCA work with and by blacks began in 1853 when Anthony Bowen established the first ""colored"" association in Washington D.C. As Anthony Bowen's work in the 1850s indicates, African Americans embraced the YMCA early on. By the late 1860s, the YMCA found a firm foothold in the community with associations established in New York City, Philadelphia, Charleston, S.C., and Harrisburg, Pa. In 1910, the black YMCA movement was given a boost when philanthropist Julius Rosenwald offered financial help to black communities wanting to build YMCAs. Black leaders in 24 cities took advantage of the offer and constructed buildings in the 1910s and 1920s. Although there were calls for an end to discrimination against blacks in the American YMCA movement almost from its beginnings, it was not until the 1920s that the effort really gained momentum. During World War I, the YMCA sent workers to France to provide relief to soldiers. This work was carried out on a segregated basis. Postwar concerns in the United States that returning black soldiers would rebel against the Jim Crow system led to the YMCAs participating in a Commission on Interracial Cooperation which operated throughout the 1920s in an attempt to ease racial tensions, but despite a growing recognition that change was inevitable, real progress was slow to come.The growing realization that racial discrimination was incompatible with the YMCA's Christian ideals forced a reexamination of the YMCA's Jim Crow policies despite fears that desegregation would split the organization. Segregation of YMCAs as a national policy...
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