During World War I, African American Minnesotans wanted to serve their state and their nation. Historically, however, the U.S. military had been racist in its recruiting. It allowed African Americans to serve only in segregated units. Facing this institutional racism, the African American community of Minnesota asked Governor J.A.A. Burnquist to form an all-African American battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard. The Sixteenth Battalion became the first Minnesota-recruited African American military unit in state history.
Members of Company A, Sixteenth Battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard, c.1918. Standing at right is Captain Clarence Wigington, who petitioned the governor to allow the formation of an African American unit. To his left is Lieutenant Homer Goins. Seated (L to R) are Dr. George Berry and Sergeant William Griffin. The remaining pictured are unidentified.