Little is known about the legacy of black service in the U.S. military


As a retired professor at US Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, I am an avid student of US history.Recently i read Guest essay written by Tom Hanks In the New York Times Opinion section. In it, he shared the view that even history lovers were unaware of the horrific attacks by white mobs on Tulsa, Oklahoma’s prosperous Blackwall Street district, in 1921. I had the same learning experience as Hanks. ‘.

In the 1960s, while looking for a college essay topic, Sable Arm: Allied Black Army, 1861, was written by former World War II Army officer Dudley Taylor Cornish, who commanded Black. I came across a book called “-1865”. Soldier. This book was about African Americans who served in the Civil War. I was surprised at the contents. When I submitted my essay, the professor was just as surprised as I was. The Union Army had a significant number of black regiments, totaling 186,000, who belonged to all Army combat units.

As a great-grandson of Union soldiers, my interest in the Civil War began at an early age. And, incidentally, a reference to the role of black soldiers in winning the war was found in my reading. After all, at graduate school, I researched and wrote an article published in the Civil War Times magazine on serving the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first North Black Volunteer Regiment. This unit was the subject of the 1989 movie “Glory”. After that, I wrote and published a biography of George Luther Stearns, who was in charge of recruiting this regiment, and 13 other people, mainly composed of former slaves.

In 1980, I returned to active duty and taught history at the Staff University of Fort Levenworth. I communicated my interest in black military history to a spokesperson. A spokeswoman put me on his speaker list. My first lecture request was from Buffalo Soldier, a black veteran organization whose members belonged to the 9th and 10th Cavalry. Surprisingly, even these men had little knowledge of the heroic contributions of their fellow black soldiers to the defense of our country, from the American Revolutionary War to today’s conflict.

Another request was from an Army recruiter in Houston, Texas. He wanted speakers to work on the military heritage of African Americans at seven high schools in the city. When I asked young students there, they knew very little about their fellow black Americans, men and women’s contributions to the United States.

While in Houston, I received an invitation to talk to a ROTC cadet at the nearby Prairie View A & M University, a historically black land-grant school. One student asked his instructor why I, a white police officer, were interested in and knowledgeable about one aspect of black history. His teacher replied, “Ask him.”

My answer was that racism and ignorance lurked in the background, so American history was written by white men and women for years. I also explained that religion, not skin color, is the victim of discrimination. But I can cross the color line, not blacks.

I think when all Americans need to protect our freedom and democracy, even if they are denied civil rights as citizens, despite the long heritage of racism in this country. I believe you should know that you have joined the army in the United States.

Charles E. Heller of Overland Park is a former US Army Colonel and Professor at US Army Command and General Staff University in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He previously worked for the Joint History Bureau of the Chairman’s Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon, Washington, DC.

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