Front Lines:
African Americans at War
Every war the United States has been involved in, before it even became the United States, blacks have been involved.”
- The Honorable Charles Walker
Gen. Colin L. Powell
Ofield Dukes
Timuel Black 
Herbert Carter
Alexander Jefferson
Maj. Gen. Leo Brooks, Sr.
The Honorable Edward Brooke
African American service in the U.S. military has been overlooked and underrepresented throughout history. However, blacks have served in every war fought by or within the United States. Over 9,000 black soldiers fought in the Revolutionary War, nearly 200,000 fought for the Union Army and in WWI over 350,000 had served by the war’s end. WWII saw its greatest numbers with over 1.2 million African Americans who served, including thousands in the women’s auxiliaries. By 1948, President Eisenhower desegregated the armed forces and blacks continued to serve valiantly, defending their country in times of war in Korea, Vietnam, South Pacific and the Middle East. For most African Americans, military service was an opportunity to show one’s patriotism for their country, in spite of their treatment as second-class citizens at home. General Colin L. Powell reminded us that, “ Black military history is a rich history. And it's not that well known. And it goes back three hundred years. And every war we've ever been in, blacks stepped forward because it was the one place they could demonstrate equality. They weren't slaves. They weren't being oppressed. They may be in segregated units, and they may not have gotten the same pay or rations or equipment as white soldiers, but nevertheless, they were able to show that they were as brave and courageous as any other group of Americans. 1 [Gen. Colin Powell, THMDA, 1.1.8.] .

Answering the call from Uncle Sam was often a sobering experience for many young black Americans eager to start their lives. Public relations chief executive and political consultant Ofield Dukes recalled; “ I attended Wayne [Wayne State University] at night taking English, and working as a janitor at Sears. When then there came a letter from a guy I wasn't really familiar with, a guy named Uncle Sam. And that was during the Korean War, and it was a mandatory invitation. And on my birthday when I was nineteen, there came a second letter suggesting that I report for active duty. 2 [Ofield Dukes, THMDA, 1.2.10.] . However, impressment of blacks into the military has been a historically discriminatory practice in the U.S. Understandably, many African Americans who were drafted held reservations about serving their country abroad, when their basic civil rights were denied at home. 4 Historian and history professor Timuel Black , who served in WWII surviving the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge, noted that, “ They sent me a draft notice the first time. ‘Greetings, your Uncle Sam has selected you from among your neighbors to serve your country.’ And I sent it back saying, ‘I don't have any uncle named Sam. I had an uncle named William and Henry but I don't have any uncle named Sam’ But they sent me back another one believe it or not. My mother said, ‘Obey the law.’ But I was drafted reluctantly and refused to pledge allegiance. 5 [Timuel Black, THMDA, 1.4.3.] .

African Americans have served in all branches of the U.S. military. One of the most widely known and celebrated African American units were the Tuskegee Airmen, also known as the Red Tails. Academic administrator and Tuskegee Airmen Herbert Carter spoke about the general attitude surrounding black pilots before the war; “ Up to now the myth was that the black man didn't have the agility, the dexterity, physiological or psychological ability to operate something as complicated as an aircraft due to his birth heritage and his cultural background. But these men there over in Anzio including myself, demonstrated that race, creed or color has nothing to do with one's ability, if they are properly trained and given an opportunity to demonstrate their training, and this we did. 6 [Herbert Carter, THMDA, 1.2.7.] . This highly trained group of fighter pilots quickly developed a reputation as one of the most respected and skilled units in military history. Education administrator and Tuskegee Airmen Alexander Jefferson was interned in a Nazi POW camp and remembered how quickly the Red Tails’ reputation had spread; “ A bomber crew came in from the 15th Air Force, saw me, ran over and grabbed me and said, ‘Oh, god damn it, you're a Red Tail.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ ‘If you'd been with us, we wouldn't have been shot down.’ We had a reputation for bringing guys back. Negroes are flying P-51s, they're Red Tails...We always brought the guys back, we were damn good .” 7 [Alexander Jefferson, THMDA, 2.11.5.] .

African Americans in the military have been awarded the most prestigious honors and risen to the highest ranks. The Brooks family is the only African American family to have three generals within two generations. In his interview, Major General Leo Brooks Sr. reflected upon the rarity of this achievement, “ It has never happened before for African Americans. So, when our two sons…succeeded in reaching that rank while we were very happy. We're also sad that it's taken this long for it to happen in America. 8 [Gen. Leo Brooks, Sr., THMDA, 2.11.5.] . Despite the hardship and adversity faced at home, African Americans still answered the call to service, The Honorable Edward Brooke noted, “ I'm proud to say that did not hinder our patriotism. I mean we were Americans. We were there to fight for freedom, for our freedom and for the freedom of others across the world. We believed in that .” 9 [The Honorable Edward Brooke, THMDA, 1.4.1.] . Throughout history, African Americans have left an indelible impact on this nation and their contributions and sacrifices are forever immortalized in the stories and achievements of those who served.
Fourth (Back) Row (L-R):  Martha Reeves, Paul Riser, Sr., Norma Fairhurst, Miller London, Cal Street, Bertha McNeal, N. Charles Anderson.   Third Row:  Tom Goss (host), George N’Namdi, Alex L. Parrish, Gregory Jackson, Robert Sellers (co-host).  Second Row:  George Shirley, The Honorable Dennis Archer, William Pickard, Earl Lewis, The Honorable Hugh Barrington Clarke, Jr.   Front Row:  The Honorable Craig C. Strong, Patricia Cosby, Eva Evans
On Wednesday, October 10, 2018, for the first time in its eighteen-year history,  The HistoryMakers honored Detroit area HistoryMakers in a reception at the historic Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The hosts for this reception included HistoryMaker and business executive  Tom Goss and  Robert Sellers , Vice Provost for Equity and Inclusion & Chief Diversity Officer of the University of Michigan. “ We are thrilled by what Mr. Goss and the University of Michigan’s Robert Sellers helped make the evening possible. Tom helped guide our work here and we owe him an eternal debt of gratitude ,” states Founder and President  Julieanna Richardson . “ We are also excited to welcome back Earl Lewis , former president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, to the University of Michigan as the director of the University of Michigan’s new Center for Social Solutions. ” Lewis and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation were instrumental in funding the work behind  The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. 
While in the Detroit,  The HistoryMakers  held a productive meeting with  Jon Cawthorne , Dean of the Wayne State University Library System and University’s School of Information Libraries, to discuss the possibility of forging future partnerships and surveying the area's African American history collections.
Last week, The HistoryMakers attended the annual conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, known as ASALH, in Indianapolis. In line with this year’s theme, ‘African Americans in Times of War,’ the conference featured a host of panels and discussions that explored the paradoxes of war and the Black struggle for freedom and equality abroad and at hom e. HistoryMaker and ASALH President Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham , serves as a member of The HistoryMakers Higher Education Advisory Board and invited HistoryMakers Founder and President, Julieanna Richardson, to deliver this year's keynote address.

The HistoryMakers booth also had an amazing turnout at this year's conference. Several of our HistoryMakers stopped by including historian and librarian Janet L. Sims-Wood ; historian and museum dire ctor John E. Fleming ; historian and educator Merline Pitre ; genealogist Anthony "Tony" Preston Burroughs ; jazz musician Carl Hines ; city historian Charles "Fred" Hearns ; ethnic studies professor William King and librarian Kathleen E. Bethel .
At ASALH last week, students and faculty from subscribing institutions stopped by The HistoryMakers booth and shared their comments on The HistoryMakers Digital Archive.
"Coming across the HistoryMakers archive has been so helpful for me as I complete by book on African American teachers and Carter G. Woodson during Jim Crow. The student testimonies about Negro History Week in black schools and the everyday pedagogies of black teachers capture things that fall out of formal school records/archives."

- Jarvis R. Givens, Assistant Professor, Harvard University
"If a man be gracious and generous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island cut off from other lands but a continent that joins them."

-Professor and newspaper columnist Chuck Stone
1. Gen. Colin L. Powell (The HistoryMakers A2006.186), interviewed by Juan Williams, April 29, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 1, story 8, Gen. Colin L. Powell talks about the history of African Americans in the U.S. military.
2. Ofield Dukes (The HistoryMakers A2003.112), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, May 31, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 10, Ofield Dukes describes being drafted to serve in the U.S. Army.
3. Roderick Pugh (The HistoryMakers A2005.264), interviewed by Larry Crowe, December 16, 2005, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 4, Roderick Pugh recalls being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942.
4. Jami L. Bryan, “Fighting for Respect: African Americans in World War I,” On Point, Vol. 8 No. 4 (Winter, 2002-2003): 11.
5. Timuel Black (The HistoryMakers A2000.007), interviewed by Julieanna L. Richardson, June 19, 2000, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 3, Timuel Black discusses his parents' stories about his ancestors.
6. Herbert Carter (The HistoryMakers A2007.097), interviewed by Denise Gines, March 18, 2007, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 2, story 7, Herbert Carter remembers his flight missions during World War II, pt. 2.
7. Alexander Jefferson (The HistoryMakers A2007.192), interviewed by Larry Crowe, June 11, 2010, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 2, tape 11, story 5, Alexander Jefferson describes the Tuskegee Airmen's reputation during World War II.
8. Maj. Gen. Leo Brooks, Sr. (The HistoryMakers A2013.169), interviewed by Larry Crowe, December 2, 2013, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 2, tape 11, story 1, Maj. Gen. Leo Brooks, Sr. talks about his sons who reached the rank of general officers in the U.S. Army.
9. The Honorable Edward Brooke (The HistoryMakers A2003.233), interviewed by Larry Crowe, September 23, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 1, Edward Brooke reflects on the historical service of blacks in the military.
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