Watson was born in 1891. Originally from Chicago, Watson served in World War I with the 365th Illinois Infantry. After the war Watson moved to New York worked as a painter and joined the Harlem branch of the Communist Party. Together with William Edward White, he was one of the two black volunteers among the first group of ninety-six who left New York, on the SS Normandie, on December 26, 1936. Watson served in the Lincoln Battalion. A sniper shot him as he moved across a short stretch of roadway that interrupted the trenches at the Jarama Front. His death on February 25, 1937 made him the first African American volunteer killed in action.
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