Originally known as “Armistice Day”, Veterans Day on Nov. 11, 1919 was the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to living or dead veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.
African Americans especially have been fighting in conflicts for the US since the Revolutionary War. Today, we want to highlight the black soldiers in history that fought for their country, despite racial circumstances. Check out these facts about the contributions of black military heroes that will forever play an important role in our nation’s history.
Did you know....
- Crispus Attucks was the first casualty by British soldiers in the Boston Massacre in 1770.
- Harriet M. Waddy participated in the women’s Army Corps in World War II as was one of the highest-ranking black officers. According to the New York Times, she said that joining the segregated military ''and accepting a situation which does not represent an ideal of democracy'' was not ''a retreat from our fight'' but ''our contribution to its realization.''
- A former slave named Salem Poor performed so heroically at Bunker Hill that 14 officers wrote to the Massachusetts legislature, commending him as a "brave and gallant Soldier" who deserved a reward.
- During the American Revolutionary War, Lemuel Haynes served as a minuteman, fighting at the April 1775 Battle of Lexington. As an indentured servant, he was enlisted in the war after earning his freedom.
- The first African American field officer in the U.S. Army, Maj. Martin Robison Delany led the 52nd U.S. Colored Troops Regiment and became the first line officer in U.S. Army history.
- On Sept. 28, 1918, Cpl. Freddie Stowers served as squad leader of Company C, 371st Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division. When his company led the attack at Hill 188, Champagne Marne Sector, France, he went above and beyond the call of duty according to his Medal of Honor citation.
- Benjamin O. Davis, Tuskegee Airmen member, commanded the 99th Pursuit Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group and became the first black general of the U.S. Air Force, during World War II.
- Rising to the rank of four-star general and becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993, Gen. Colin L. Powell served 35 years in the U.S. Army. National security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, he was appointed secretary of state in 2001 in George W. Bush's administration. He was the recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two Presidential Medals of Freedom, a Purple Heart and numerous decorations from other countries.
- After flying combat missions over Vietnam as a U.S. Air Force pilot, Col. Guion S. Bluford Jr., went on to become one of America's first black astronauts. As a member of the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, he flew 144 combat missions and 65 over North Vietnam.
- Appointed by President Bill Clinton, Lillian E. Fishburne became the first African American woman to hold the rank of rear admiral. Fishburne also went on to become the highest-ranking African American woman in the U.S. Navy.