By Michael Maddox | U.S. Army Cadet CommandFebruary 25, 2019
FORT KNOX, Kentucky -- Fort Knox residents and employees turned out Feb. 22 for the 2019 African American/Black History Month Observance held at the Sadowski Center. The theme for this year's observance was "Black Migrations."
The theme emphasized the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and subsequently to new social realities in the United States. This was expounded upon by guest speaker Aukram Burton, executive director for the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, and a short musical performance by Marjorie Marshall.
This massive demographic shift remade the nation in ways that are still being felt today-- culturally, politically, and socially. Between 1915 and 1970, more than six million African Americans moved out of the South to cities across the Northeast, Midwest and West.
During the Migration many people found doors opening into areas that had been previously denied resulting in an explosion of opportunities in the arts, sports, science, technology, and politics. They created a Black urban culture that would have an enormous influence in the decades to come.
Maj. Gen. John Evans Jr., commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command, opened the event with comments about the importance African Americans have played in society, the Army and his life.
"This is an important day for us to come here and recognize our black and African-American citizens and Soldiers in our country. As you take a look history of leadership across the African-American community, it's amazing the way it touches us here in the Army," he said. "From Brig. Gen. Benjamin Davis, who was our first African American general in 1940, to luminaries like Gen. Colin Powell, who was our Joint Chief, to men who had influences on my career as mentors, coaches and leaders that I've followed - We have been blessed to have an incredible group of leaders to guide us through very difficult times and I am thankful personally for their leadership."
Burton then took some time to share some history about Col. Charles Young, first African American man to achieve the rank of colonel in the United States Army. He was also the third African-American graduate of the United States Military Academy.
"He was a Soldier, an educator, a diplomat and civil rights activist," said Burton. "Because he was a Soldier, a lot of times he gets marginalized and people only recognize his as a Soldier, but he was much more than that. He was a standard bearer for his race in the officer corps for nearly 30 years."
African American/Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the immeasurable impact they have had on the history of the United States. Dr. Carter G. Woodson is credited for establishing Black History Month as a nationwide institution.
Other African American Soldier Historical Facts:
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, the 369th Infantry, also known as the "Harlem Hellfighters," was among the first regiments to arrive in France and it became one of the most highly decorated. An all-black regiment under the command of mostly white officers including its commander, Colonel William Hayward, the 369th spent 191 days in combat, longer than any other American unit in the war. Hayward described his unit saying, "My men never retire, they go forward or they die."
In 1942, the Commandant of the Marine Corps issued formal instructions to recruit qualified African-American men. The men who enlisted in response completed recruit training at Montford Point in North Carolina. Between 1942 and 1949, approximately 20,000 African-American men completed recruit training and became known as the "Montford Point Marines." Their efforts proved their courage and paved the way for integrated armed forces. By 1949, training was desegregated.
In February 1944, the Navy commissioned its first African-American officers. This long-hoped-for action represented a major step forward in the status of African Americans in the Navy and in American society. The 12 commissioned officers, and a warrant officer who received his rank at the same time, came to be known as the "Golden Thirteen."
In June 1967, Air Force Major Robert Henry Lawrence Jr. successfully completed the Air Force Flight Test Pilot Training School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. That same month, he was selected by NASA as an astronaut in the Air Force's Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program, thus becoming the first African-American astronaut. He died in a crash while working as an instructor pilot at Edwards Air Force Base on December 8, 1967. He never got to go into space.