Civil War to World War I

This is the third of four posts about Memorial Day, with intentional awareness of African American contributions. I don’t know what it has been like to serve during slavery years and through the era of Klan resurgence, but I’ve learned a great deal this Memorial Weekend. These posts formed the basis for a Sunday School lesson yesterday in a class that included three World War II veterans. I salute them.

Post-Civil War, the military was not immune to Jim Crow, but African Americans were well represented in the military. The 1865-1899 era was militarily dominated by Indian Wars Campaigns on the frontier. The 417 recipients of the Medal of Honor for service in the Frontier Indian Wars included 18 African Americans (four of whom were “Negro Seminole Scouts”). That era birthed the Buffalo Soldiers.

About 380,000 African Americans served during World War I, but half of the 200,000 sent Europe were in labor or stevedore battalions. Two of 126 WW1 Medal of Honor recipients were black: Freddie Stowers and Henry Johnson. Recently, the Naming Commission recommended that Fort Polk (which honors Confederate General Leonidas Polk) be renamed Fort Johnson, in honor of Henry Johnson.

From the one-hour documentary, Black Patriots: Buffalo Soldiers,Tuesday, May 31 at 9:30 pm Central Time on the HISTORY Channel

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