By Bill Kysor, Communications Liaison of the ESD Veterans Employee Resource Group
February is Black History Month and the members of the ESD VERG Team wish to celebrate this time with a view back in history to the African-American heroes, many who are unsung and unnamed, but who contributed greatly to the cultural transformation of American diversity and inclusion.
Black History Month and Heroes in the American Military
The following story by Professor Gary Gallagher, Ph.D., University of Virginia, provides that look through America’s early military history of the contributions and struggles of black Americans as soldiers. Professor Gallagher describes that history from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War of the gradual acceptance and recognition for the abilities, courage, and contributions of the tens of thousands of black Americans who fought for liberty and freedom that was denied them elsewhere in society.
Article: Black Soldiers in the American Civil War (wondriumdaily.com)
Black History Month and Heroes in the American Military – World War I
This is the second in a series of articles describing the experiences of African Americans in the U.S. military. This is their experience in World War I.
Over 380,000 African Americans served in World War I, fifty years after the end of the Civil War, but segregation and prejudice still existed within the U.S. Military. It was the persistence and relentless pursuit of equality that the African American National Guard soldiers of New York’s 15th Infantry Regiment fought U.S. Government resistance just to see combat in World War I.
The following is their story. The USO chronicle of the “Black Rattlers,” “Men of Bronze” or, as the article linked below describes them more famously, as the “Hellfighters of Harlem.”
Article: In World War I, African American 'Hellfighters from Harlem,' Fought Prejudice to Fight for Their Country · United Service Organizations (uso.org)
Black History Month and Heroes in the American Military – World War II
This is the third in a series of articles describing the experiences of African Americans in the U.S. military. The following is a USO (United Service Organizations) story of the experiences of the first Black American pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and combat aircraft support personnel in World War II. This is their story and how they overcame segregation and prejudice to become known as the “Tuskegee Airmen” and war heroes of World War II.
Article:Tuskegee Airmen Shattered Perceptions in the Military and at Home · United Service Organizations (uso.org)
Black History Month and Heroes in the American Military Seven Moments of Bravery in African American History
This is the fourth in a series of articles describing the experiences of African Americans in the U.S. military. The following USO (United Service Organizations) article describes the stories of six incredible achievements of heroism on the battlefields of WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Iraq plus a peacetime rescue in Hawaii. The seventh story captures the remarkable career of the only female Black officer retained by the military after World War II…Major Oleta Crain.
Article: 7 Moments of Bravery in African American Military History · United Service Organizations (uso.org)
Black History Month and Heroes in the American Military Five (5) Firsts in African American History
This is the fifth in our series of articles describing the experiences of African Americans in the U.S. military and it is aptly titled “Five Firsts” in that evolving history. This USO (United Service Organizations) article recounts the stories of five incredible African Americans, women and men.
Those firsts include the first African American woman, Phyllis Mae Dailey, sworn into the Navy Nurse Corps during World War II, to the first African American as a four-star general, Daniel “Chappie” James Jr., and to the first female aviator in the Coast Guard, Jeanine McIntosh. The other two firsts were for exceptional heroism in battle by Freddie Stowers during World War I and James Anderson Jr. whose ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War saved the lives of those around him. Both of whom received the Medal of Honor for heroism of extraordinary valor.
All their stories are compelling and thought provoking for the breakthroughs they made or for their selfless sacrifice for others. All Americans should feel proud of what these individuals did and how they served with honor to do it.
Articles: 5 Firsts in African American Military History · United Service Organizations (uso.org)
Black History Month and Heroes in the American Military
Vernon Baker: At Long Last
This is the sixth and final segment in our series of articles describing the experiences of African Americans in the U.S. military. The story of Vernon Baker is one of the many of stories African Americans who have served the U.S. Armed Forces since the Revolutionary War, but Vernon’s recognition for valor, and those of six other African Americans, on January 13, 1997, provides a glimpse of what those experiences were and their place in history that was kept hidden in the shadows for years.
It wasn’t until that 13th day of January in 1997, that President Bill Clinton recognized the past gallantry of seven heroic black World War II veterans for the Medal of Honor. Only Vernon Baker was alive to receive the award and honor that day, but his story reflected what the other six were also denied for so long.
Vernon’s story is compelling reading as it captures the politics and racial climate of the times during and after World War II. It illustrates progress, in small steps perhaps, but progress none the less for recognition and acceptance denied so long by those who gave so much and received so little for so long in America.
Article: Vernon Baker: At Long Last · United Service Organizations (uso.org)
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