African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Carrie Williams Clifford, "Our Women of the Canteen" Note

This poem alludes to a small group of African American women who volunteered in France in 1918-1920, in support of the War effort. They were specifically assigned to segregated black soldier regiments (such as the 92nd infantry). Nikki Brown mentions three such women in particular, Addie Hunton, Kathryn Johnson, and Helen Curtis. Hunton and Johnson later teamed up to write a narrative of their experiences, "Two Colored Women Among the American Expeditionary Forces" (1920). It's certain that Clifford was inspired by the story of Hunton, Curtis, and Johnson in writing this poem; it's less clear whether she specifically read Hunton and Johnson's book. As an intriguing side-note, Hunton/Johnson book contains a poem as an epigram by Georgia Douglas Johnson ("Potency"), which describes the black contribution to the war effort.

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