Teaching Ohio’s Forgotten Heroes

Special thanks to our guest contributor Paul LaRue, retired high school teacher and and member of the Ohio World War I Centennial Committee.

Nearly 8,000 Black Ohioans served in the United States Army and Navy in World War I; many made the ultimate sacrifice. The story of these heroes is often overlooked. In today’s classroom, teachers are often forced to balance the volume of content against limited time. World War I content would likely be covered in one to two weeks of class time. A teacher once told me they could cover the World War I content in three class sessions; apparently, they are a much better time manager than I ever was!

The World War I Centennial has provided teachers with an infusion of fresh World War I material and resources. The Ohio History Connection and the Ohio World War I Centennial provide content aligned to the Ohio model curriculum. These lesson plans are free and online. The United States World War I Centennial Commission and The National Park Services Teaching with Historic Places series also offer free quality online lesson plans and resources, aligned to national social studies standards, and with a focus on Black World War I Soldiers and Sailors.

Below are five statements about Black World War I Soldiers and Sailors, their connection to Ohio, with a corresponding lesson plan to help your students explore this rich history!


  1. The 93rd Division saw more combat than any other Black Division. The Division contained the famed 369th Regiment, better known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” The Division also contained a combat regiment with a significant number of Ohioans, the 372nd. The 93rd Division served under French, not United States command.https://ohiomemory.ohiohistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Searching-for-Homer-Lawson-Lesson-Plan.pdf
  2. Of the approximately 380,000 Black World War I Soldiers only 42,000 served in combat regiments. Nearly 340,000 Black Soldiers served in labor regiments. These men dug trenches, unloaded trains and built roads. Several of these regiments were organized and trained at Camp Sherman near Chillicothe, Ohio.https://ohiomemory.ohiohistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/African-Am-Labor-for-Victory-Lesson-Plan.pdf
  3. Colonel Charles Young was the highest-ranking Black Soldier in the Army during World War I. Colonel Young demonstrated his fitness to serve by riding his horse from Wilberforce, Ohio to Washington D.C.  https://www.nps.gov/subjects/teachingwithhistoricplaces/lightning-lesson-002_charles-young-house.htm
  4. The 325th Field Signal Battalion was organized at Camp Sherman in Ohio and was the only Black Field Signal Corps Battalion in the Army. The 325th was considered the best educated Black Battalion in the United States Army. https://ohiomemory.ohiohistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/TechnologyWWI_NEHLessonPlan.pdf
  5. Just over 1% of the Sailors in the United State Navy in 1918 were Black. Several Black World War I Sailors are buried in the historic Union Baptist Cemetery in Cincinnati.  Specific data on Black World War I Sailors can be found in optional activity #1 in the lesson plan. https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/world-war-i-and-the-philadelphia-navy-yard-modernization-of-the-us-navy-teaching-with-historic-places.htm

Additional Resources

Celebrate Black History Month by helping your students understand the valuable contributions of Ohios Black World War I Soldiers and Sailors. Have a resource you like to use in the classroom? Share it with us by emailing [email protected].
Blog post image citation: National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center. Charles Young PhotographStillimage. Wilberforce, OH: 1900. Ohio Memory. https://www.ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p267401coll36/id/3911. (Accessed January 21, 2022)

Posted February 22, 2022

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