Still had taken a break from his musical studies at Oberlin during World War I to join the Navy. At this time the only job available to African Americans in the Navy was mess attendant. Yet, despite this discriminatory treatment, many African Americans chose to reinforce their claim on democracy and freedom and fight for liberty overseas, although they did not have full freedom at home. During his tour of duty, he was relieved of some of his mess responsibilities to perform for officers' meals after it was discovered that he could play the violin.
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