Culture,  LIFE |

Day 2 – Fighting for Acceptance

 

Welcome to Day 2!

Why is there a black history month?

Why isn’t there a white, or Latino, Chinese, or Filipino history month being acknowledged and celebrated in our country?

Go ahead and do a quick Google search and you’ll see the millions of other people who have asked the same thing. Some out of sheer curiosity, many due to ignorance and plenty because of pure hate.  There is (still) a need for Black History month because there is an incredible amount of history to share about everything from the injustices and varying types of discrimination to our accomplishments and the continuing struggles as a people.

We are so much more than what the educators and media continue to regurgitate about slavery and the stories of great leaders such as Dr. King and pioneers such as Harriet and Rosa.

How many of you are familiar with a special group of black soldiers known as the 369th Infantry? Does anyone know about that “secret memo” issued by the U.S. Army? Have you heard of Lawrence Leslie McVey?

The Hellfighters

When the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917, black soldiers were considered unfit for combat and were not allowed to serve in combat with white soldiers, restricted to manual labor duties.  The National Guard, however, had a few units that accepted blacks and ended up “loaning” them to the U.S. Army  which found them only worthy of helping the French army.  This group of men formed the 369th Infantry also known as the Harlem Hellfighters.

As part of preparation for going overseas gor the war all military units had to go through specialized training in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  These black soldiers were wearing the same military uniform and fighting the same cause as the white soldiers but the Southerners treated them like …Southerners treated blacks during those times.

The level of outrage and disrespect for these men were so extreme, the fear of being assaulted by the local residents was the norm. Soldier or not, they were still the black men America hated so much.

Jim Crow Overseas 

General John J. Pershing was one of the best-known military commanders for having led U.S. forces during World War I and was honored as the highest-ranking general in the history of the U.S. Army. But what the history books would rather not mention is his infamous pamphlet titled “Secret Information Concerning Black American Troops”.

As if the black soldiers didn’t have enough to worry about, General Pershing’s communique showed how racist even the U.S. Army could be with a ‘secret’ warning to the French that “if they worked too closely or too well with the members of the 369th, Americans would hold it against them”.

The memo even went on to state “Although a citizen of the United States, the black man is regarded by the white American as an inferior being…”, advising the French to avoid eating or shaking hands with black soldiers to keep from ‘spoiling’ the Negroes…”

So let me get this straight – you can volunteer or be drafted for the military, wear the same uniform and fight for the same cause and still be considered as less of a soldier. Then have your leader in the trenches spread the same racist rhetoric to those in other countries.

Yet these black soldiers still gave their all with the expectations and hopes that one day… they would be treated as equals. They were not only fighting for their country but for acceptance.

Now ask yourself again why there is a need for black history.

(Photo Credit: untappedcities.com)

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One Comment

  • Kate Kelly

    Charisma,
    Thank you for pointing this out and bringing up the memo. I need to do a separate piece on that!

    Black History month is a great time to celebrate the heroes (male and female) who overcame terrible odds to be positive members of society. There are many!

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