Honoring our African American heroes
As February comes to a close, it is time to look back on the month and remember that even though people associate it with love because of Valentine’s Day, there is much more to this month. It is a month to honor and remember the strong black men and women who went through so much and fought so hard to make the world better for the next generation. Black History Month is an annual observance in the US but is also celebrated as Black Achievement Month in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. It began as a way to remember important people and events in history that affected those of African descent.
It started in 1926 when Carter G. Woodson, one of the first scholars to study African American history, announced that the second week of February would be “Negro History Week” because Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays were both within that week. It entered education in 1969 at Kent State University when black educators proposed the idea. President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month officially during the Celebration of the US Bicentennial by stating, “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.
This year’s theme was “African Americans in Times of War”. It marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and honors the roles that African Americans have played in warfare from the American Revolution to present day. About 9,000 African Americans fought in the Revolutionary War for the patriots counting the Continental Army and Navy. In the Civil War, 186,097 African American men were enlisted, which made up 163 units that served in the Union. Freddie Stowers was posthumously awarded a Medal of Honor by George H. W. Bush, after the nomination was “misplaced” by the army after World War I. He was one of very few African Americans to be awarded for his actions during the war.
In 1945, Phyllis Mae Dailey was the first African American woman sworn into the Navy, to fight in World War II. She was the first of only four during that war. Many know of Doris Miller and his actions during the attack on Pearl Harbor because of the movie Pearl Harbor, he was a Navy mess attendant who voluntarily manned an anti-aircraft gun and fired at the Japanese aircraft even though he had no training in weapon usage. This made him the first African American to receive a Navy Cross. The Vietnam War saw twenty African Americans be awarded a Medal of Honor for their actions.
It is important that we look back and remember those brave heroes that risked their lives in and out of combat. The ones that risked their lives going to school because “they did not belong”, marching in the streets for what was their basic human rights, and those standing in front of millions to change the face of civil rights.