GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba -- In 1926, historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, established Black History Week in the United States. This celebration commemorated the individuals who have made significant contributions to black history and culture.
"We should emphasize not Black History, but the African-Americans in history," said Woodson. "What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race, hate and religious prejudice."
During America's bicentennial in 1976, the week-long tradition expanded to the entire month of February. African-American history documented the impact on fighting for equality for all races and gender of American heritage in areas of politics, economics and social development.
Today, Troopers from Joint Task Force Guantanamo celebrate the occasion with observances throughout the month.
"Though it's important to remember the lessons of the past, it's equally important that we live out those lessons in the present," said Brig. Gen. Samuel Nichols, deputy commander, Joint Task Force Guantanamo.
Joint Detention Group Commander Army Col. Donnie Thomas said those lessons are reflected within the task force every day.
"Here at Guantanamo we are a community of good example regardless of race, creed and religion," said Thomas. "We are here for one mission: safe, humane and legal treatment for individuals we guard. We give them tremendous dignity and respect regardless of what they did on the battlefield. I believe in the message Dr. Martin Luther King preached."
Black History Month is a time to reflect upon the many successes of African-Americans of the past.
"It's through their accomplishments we are reminded of obstacles they overcame," Thomas explained.
While still under the yoke of slavery, African-Americans served in the Revolutionary War but were not given credit for their heroism on the battlefield.
"The American revolution was a blessing for many of them," Nichols said. "It paved the way to freedom from slavery and helped them embark on a journey towards fairness, equality and civil rights."
During the Civil War, African-Americans fought for the Union as free men but served primarily in segregated units. On July 26, 1948, President Harry Truman passed Executive Order Number 9981 to end racial segregation in the United States Armed Forces.
"Truman placed civil rights at the top of his political agenda," said Nichols. "Truman was truly a visionary in this area in what the world was experiencing."
This peaceful revolution embraced freedom for all American citizens regardless of race, ethnicity and religion.
"African-Americans have fought for America, not so much for what she is, but for what they knew she could be," Nichols said.
In 1863, William Carney became the first African-American Medal of Honor winner for his actions on the battlefield of Fort Wagner, S.C. While Carney was the first African-American to be recognized with the nation highest military honor, the list of distinguish African-American servicememebers is as storied as any other.
"They have given their blood in defense of our nation from Christopher Attucks on Boston Commons to the battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond."
Citing the importance of Black History month and remembering all those who've struggled for the dignity of all men and women, Nichols said that as we continue the march towards equality we must never allow the importance of those who came before to diminish.
"We can not forget the struggles from all who fought for the rights of its people and ultimately paid the supreme sacrifice."