Four months after the United States entered World War I, Wilson-born attorney Charles S. Darden (then living in Los Angeles, California) wrote Secretary of War Lindley Garrison on behalf of African-American men who had tried to enlist in the military’s “Aviation Department.” “I was informed, some time ago,” he wrote, “through the News Papers, that applications from young colored men would be acceptable to the government …, and I am now unable to understand where the local Recruiting Officers of of [sic] that Department get their instructions to the contrary.”
Signal Corps Captain Thomas H. McConnell responded quickly and succinctly: “At the present time no colored aero squadrons are being formed and applications from colored men for this branch of the service cannot be considered for that reason.”
United States War Department. Letter from Secretary of War to Charles S. Darden, August 11, 1917. W.E.B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.
Thanks to Patricia Freeman to bringing this letter to my attention!