Freddie Stowers: Remembering African-American Contributions to World War I

Guiding Question:

How do we memorialize the extraordinary efforts and ultimate sacrifices of African-American soldiers in World War I?


Corporal Freddie Stowers is an African-American soldier buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery who received the U.S. Medal of Honor for his service and sacrifice in World War I. Using the details of Stowers’ actions during the MeuseArgonne Offensive and the experiences of African-American soldiers, students will memorialize Stowers by creating a monument in his honor for the American Battle Monuments Commission’s Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.


Historical Context

Stowers was a man of humble origins who gave his life for the cause of freedom and democracy in World War I. Stowers and his company began an attack of Hill 188 despite heavy resistance during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Shortly after Stowers’ company finally cut through German defenses, German soldiers faked surrender, leaving Stowers’ company vulnerable to renewed German fire. Stowers took command of the men after his superiors in rank were either badly wounded or dead. He courageously led the remaining men forward to take out a German machine gun nest. Even after being mortally wounded, Stowers continued to lead his men through two lines of German trenches. The taking of Hill 188 helped break the famed Hindenburg Line and paved the way for Allied victory in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.


At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to

  • Identify the key characteristics of the life and experiences of Stowers;
  • Analyze the social, cultural, and political factors that shaped the African-American experience during World War I; and
  • Explain how architectural design, landscaping, and art can memorialize sacrifice.

Standards Connections

Connections to Common Core
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

Connections to C3 Framework
D2.His.7.9-12. Explain how the perspectives of people in the present shape interpretations of the past

Lesson Preparation


Activity One: Corporal Freddie Stowers (30 minutes)

  • Distribute the Freddie Stowers Medal of Honor Citation and “The Buffalo Soldier in WWI” to students.
  • Ask students:
    • What sacrifice did Stowers make? What effect did his sacrifice have on his unit?
    • When was Stowers awarded the Medal of Honor? Why might there have been such a delay?
    • How does this delay translate to an overall statement about African-Americans fighting in World War I?

    Activity Two: Touring the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery (60 minutes)

    • Pass out the Memorial Analysis Handout to each student.
    • Direct students to the American Battle Monument Commission’s Panoramic Tour of the MeuseArgonne American Cemetery.
    • Explain to students that they will take a virtual tour of the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery, which was built for the American war dead of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
      • Teacher Tip: The white figures in the top-right hand corner box indicate locations within the cemetery. Each area allows the user to look 360 degrees and includes icons that indicate areas of interest.
    • Direct students to answer the questions on the Memorial Analysis Handout as they take the tour.
    • Review student answers as a class.

Assessment Materials

  • Distribute one Memorializing African-American Sacrifice Activity to each student.
  • Ask students to decide how they would like to memorialize the sacrifice of African-American service members during World War I, particularly that of Stowers, using architectural design, landscaping, and art.
  • The Memorializing African-American Sacrifice Rubric may be used to assess student work.

Methods for Extension

  • Students with more interest in memorials or the African-American experience can find other American Battle Monuments Commission cemeteries that would be suitable for memorials to African-Americans who fought and died during World War I.


  • Teachers can group their students based on ability.
  • Students can create their design using web-based programs or computer software.