Long before their sacrifices were acknowledged, Black men fought in the military. A Black History Month feature article details heroes from World War 1, and beyond, all of whom went into battle for a country unwilling to recognize their presence.
From The New York Daily News:
The story of African-Americans fighting and dying for America is not new. It's older than the nation itself. In every war and conflict fought by the United States, from Colonial times to Iraq and Afghanistan today, blacks have been on the front lines, shedding blood for liberty and justice that hasn't always been there for them at home.
And although today's African-American men and women have legal freedoms, their counterparts didn't until the 1960s, and the thousands of troops coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq are irrevocably linked to this military history.
But despite their numbers and heroism, many of their accomplishments have remained largely anonymous.
Most history classes don't regale the efforts of the black Marines who defended New York City during the Revolutionary War or the African-American “Buffalo Soldiers” who rescued Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in a key battle of the Spanish-American War.
“Why would you fight for a country that treated you like a second-class citizen?” pondered Frank Martin, director of the 2010 award-winning documentary For Love of Liberty: The Story Of America's Black Patriots. “They did it for the love of liberty,” he continued. “They did it so that they could enjoy the benefits and fruits of liberty that were promised to all Americans, and they continued to fight for it until they got it.”
According to the article, branches of the military have historically discounted the contributions of Black soldiers. For example, the Black Marines that defended New York City during the Revolutionary War and the Black “Buffalo Soldiers” that rescued the Rough Riders—a name given to the 1 st United States Volunteer Cavalry—during the Spanish American war, seem to be missing from history lessons.
As it stands, there has been no war fought by or within the United State in which a Black soldier did not participate. Today more than 240,000 Black people are on active duty in all branches of the military.
See photos below.
Photo: Education Images