African-Americans in the Military Highlighted by Historian

TOP: An African American Sailor during WWII. ABOVE: Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr. became the first African-American general on Aug. 1, 1941. Nearly seven years later, in July 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 integrating the U.S. military services. (Photo: THINKSTOCK.com photo TOP | Contributed)
TOP: An African American Sailor during WWII. ABOVE: Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Sr. became the first African-American general on Aug. 1, 1941. Nearly seven years later, in July 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 integrating the U.S. military services.
(Photo: THINKSTOCK.com photo TOP | Contributed)

Throughout the history of the United States, African-Americans have significantly contributed to the rich heritage and culture of this country in all areas of society. Since 1976, each February Americans have celebrated the history and heritage of African-Americans.

The theme for this year’s observance is “A Century of Black Life, History and Culture.”

African-Americans have especially been present in U.S. armed forces from the American Revolution to the present. Today, about 17 percent of the members of all U.S. armed forces are African-Americans, roughly the same percentage of African-Americans who are of military enlistment age.

After the fighting began in 1775, the British offered to free any African-American slave who served with them, leading Gen. George Washington and the Continental Congress to offer the same proposal. As a result, several thousand African-Americans served as Continental soldiers, sailors and Marines.

During the War of 1812, most states rejected attempts of African-Americans to join state militias. However, 500 African-Americans fought at New Orleans in late December 1814 and several hundred with the Navy.

At the start of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, wary of offending the slave-holding border states, prohibited African-Americans from enlisting. However, as the need for soldiers grew by late 1862, the U.S. government began enlisting African-Americans.

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Source: Montgomery Advertiser | Dr. Robert B. Kane