I have spent part of the week researching a project we are hoping will come to fruition this coming Sunday at Governors Island. In my digging I came across this semi-related image of African-American troops taking in a movie at Camp Travis in 1917. It is fascinating on several levels but one thing I find interesting is how aware the entire room is that they are being photographed for posterity. One sees the same phenomenon in pictures of Civil War troops, though in that era photography was still in its infancy. I am guessing that as late as 1917 photography seemed novel to these men. I cannot help but wonder what movies–certainly silent pictures–they would have watched. The original caption hints that in addition to any films being screened there was probably a variety-night aspect to these types of affairs. As a depot brigade these men likely did not see combat in France, but performed the crucial–and back-breaking–function of logistics and supply.
(image/Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division, The New York Public Library. “Movies!’ Building No.1, Army Y.M.C.A., Camp Travis, Texas.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1917. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e2-08cb-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99)