The outbreak of the War with Spain in 1898 elicited a mixed reaction among Negro Americans. Enthusiastic pro-war advocates viewed the conflict in terms of its benefits to Negroes. Their argument maintained that the black man’s participation in the military effort would win respect from whites and therefore enhance his status at home. They also emphasized that the islands likely to come under American influence would open economic opportunities for black citizens. Opposing such views were the highly vocal anti-war, anti-imperialist elements within the Negro community. Though sympathetic with the plight of Cuba and especially with Negro Cubans, these black Americans argued that the Spaniards, for all their cruelty, at least had not fastened upon the island a system of racial discrimination comparable to that in the United States. Many contended that only when the American government guaranteed its own black citizens their full constitutional rights would it be in a position to undertake a crusade to free Cuba from Spanish tyranny. Confronted by lynching, disfranchisement, and segregation at home, Negroes had little difficulty in appreciating the attitude of the black Iowan who declared: “I will not go to war. I have no country to fight for. I have not been given my rights here.”
Gatewood, Jr., Willard B.
"Negro Troops in Florida, 1898,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 49:
1, Article 4.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol49/iss1/4