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African American woman in a Minnesota Home Guard Lieutenant uniform

African American woman in a Minnesota Home Guard Lieutenant uniform

The Commission of Public Safety created a Minnesota Home Guard in spring 1917, to attend to civilian and military duties while the National Guard served in the war. Similar to the military, the Home Guard did not allow people of color to join. African American leader Clarence Wigington petitioned the governor to create a similar organization for black Minnesotans who also wanted to serve their state. In April 1918, the Sixteenth Battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard formed, populated and led by all African Americans. 

Women served in support roles during World War I. The Navy allowed for some limited participation of women during the war, but otherwise, women were not allowed to serve as enlisted soldiers. It wasn't until after World War II that women became permanent participants in the U.S. military. The issue of women in combat is still controversial today.