Journey of Freedom in America: African Americans in World War I

Event Date: February 15, 2019 at 7:00 pm Event Location: St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 18313 Lappans Road, Boonsboro

Voices from the Earth Black Chautauqua Group makes its third appearance at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church during Black History Month. On Friday evening, February 15 from 7 – 9 PM in the St. Mark’s Fellowship Center, VFTE will present “Journey of Freedom in America: African Americans in World War I,” featuring “An evening with Edith Wharton and Coralie Franklin Cook.” Questions, answers, and conversation will follow the presentation allowing for an in depth look at the complex issues of race, class, gender, and education in the Great War. A companion reader with essays by the scholars will be provided in print to participants. The performance is excellent for youth and adults and open to the public. A free-will offering will be collected.

As a correspondence for Scribner’s Magazine, Edith Wharton (portrayed by Karen Vuranch) witnessed the rescue in France in the form of black troops fighting with the French divisions. Coralie Franklin Cook (portrayed by Ilene Evans) worked with Harriet Tubman and Mary Church Terrell to found the National Association of Colored Women. She taught at Storer College and Howard University and was an author, art critic, educator and social rights activist during World War I.

“The world must be made safe for democracy,” President Wilson boldly stated. These words immediately resonated with many African Americans who viewed the war as an opportunity to bring about social democracy in the US. They quickly recognized the fact that WW I was “not a white man’s war, nor a black man’s war, but a war of all the people living under the ‘Stars and Stripes’ for the preservation of human liberty throughout the world.” More than one million black Americans, according to the Second Official Report of the Provost Marshall General, promptly responded to and registered under the three Selective Service calls. More than 400,000 Negro soldiers were called to the colors and offered their lives in defense of the American flag during WW I. Relative to their population, proportionately more Negros were “drafted” than was true of white men. (Emmett J. Scott, American Negro in the World War.)

VFTE Chautauqua brings history and culture to life through creating humanities programs which invite lifelong learning, inquiry, and critical thinking. Scholars do extensive research of primary source documents, journals and diaries to reveal the wealth of our American history and bring that history to life in the form of first person narratives and historical portrayals. Performers stay “in character” immediately following the presentation in order to engage in discourse and discussion with the audience, cracking open the previously hidden history of the lives of ordinary Americans.

This project was made possible by a grant from Maryland Humanities, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Maryland Historical Trust in the Maryland Department of Planning, and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Maryland Humanities, Maryland Historical Trust, Maryland Department of Planning, or the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Additional funding is from the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church “Trail of Souls.” St. Mark’s is recognized by the CVB as an African American Historic site, and is a member of the CVB. The St. Mark’s website,, contains information about the African Americans who were enslaved by the founders, who won their freedom and settled in the community. The Warfield family, featured in the research, are the ancestors of the Doleman family.

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For more information about the church and directions call 301-582-0417 or go to the church website:

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