After years of being forced to chose between their hair and staying within regulation, African-American servicewomen in the United States Army are praising revised grooming policies that’ll allow them to don dreadlocks. The Army announced plans to lift the ban on locs early last month in a directive that largely focused on grooming policy changes that pertained to religious accommodations, according to The New York Times.
Buried in the memo was text stating that female service members would now be permitted to wear “dreadlocks/locs,” as long as the strands are less than 1/8 inch wide, the scalp grid is uniformed and neat, and, when gathered, all the hair fits into the authorized bun size of 3 1/2 inches wide by 2 inches deep, as stated under Army Regulation 670-1.
The change was happily welcomed by African-American servicewomen, who, in April 2014, were outraged after the Army enacted policies that explicitly prohibited locs, twists, braids and other protective hairstyles common in the African-American community. Many argued that the regulations were confusing, discriminatory and left Black servicewomen with little hairstyle options while in uniform.
A member of the best-known African-American unit of World War I, popularly known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” is scheduled to receive a posthumous Medal of Honor on Friday from President Barack Obama for heroism during combat.
The Medal of Honor will be bestowed upon Private Henry Johnson for his actions while serving as a member of Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, American Expeditionary Forces, according to a White House news release.
Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson, New York National Guard, will join the president at the White House to accept the Medal of Honor on Private Johnson’s behalf. Army Sgt. William Shemin, who was Jewish and from the Bronx, NYC, is also scheduled to be honored for rushing three times across a battlefield to pull wounded comrades to safety in August 1918.
Nearly 100 years ago, then-Private Johnson, a train station porter from Albany, distinguished himself during combat near the Tourbe and Aisne Rivers, northwest of Saint Menehoul, France, on May 15, 1918.
While on night sentry duty on May 15, 1918, Private Johnson and a fellow Soldier received a surprise attack by a German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers.
While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Johnson mounted a brave retaliation resulting in several enemy casualties. When his fellow soldier was badly wounded, Private Johnson prevented him from being taken prisoner by German forces.
Private Johnson [put] himself [in] grave danger by advancing from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. Displaying great courage, Private Johnson held back the enemy force until they retreated.
The “Harlem Hellfighters” were a group of brothers serving as U.S. soldiers amid intense racism. “The French called them the Men of Bronze out of respect, and the Germans called them the Harlem Hellfighters out of fear,”according to NPR.
Dubbing themselves “Men of Bronze,” the soldiers of the 369th were lucky in many ways compared to other African American military units in France in 1918. They enjoyed a continuity of leadership, commanded throughout the war by one of their original organizers and proponents, Colonel William Hayward. Unlike many white officers serving in the black regiments, Colonel Hayward respected his troops, dedicated himself to their well-being, and leveraged his political connections to secure support from New Yorkers. Whereas African American valor usually went unrecognized, well over one hundred members of the regiment received American and/or French medals, including the first two Americans – Corporal Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts – to be awarded the coveted French Croix de Guerre.
Spending over six months in combat, perhaps the longest of any American unit in the war, the 369th suffered approximately fifteen hundred casualties but received only nine hundred replacements. Unit histories claimed they were the first unit to cross the Rhine into Germany; they performed well at Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood, earning the epithet “Hell Fighters” from their enemies. Nevertheless, the poor replacement system coupled with no respite from the line took its toll, leaving the unit exhausted by the armistice in November. Although the 369th could boast of a fine combat record and a regimental Croix de Guerre, the unit was plagued by acute discipline problems resulting from disproportionate casualties among the unit’s longest-serving members and related failures to assimilate new soldiers. After considerable effort by Colonel Hayward, the 369th was welcomed home with a parade in February 1919 and reabsorbed into the National Guard.
Congratulations, Private Johnson, and thanks to President Obama for recognizing a brave solider.
The District of Columbia National Guard celebrated the graduation of its first African-American female pilot.
First Lt. Demetria Elosiebo earned her Army aviator wings in February after completing Initial Entry Rotary Wing Flight School at Fort Rucker, Alabama. “This is an extraordinary, historical event for us,” said Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard. “We’re extremely proud of Lt. Elosiebo. She’s a fine officer, and now, an Army aviator.”
Schwartz said every pilot who graduates from Fort Rucker’s rigorous aviator training course – male or female, regardless of their race or ethnicity – has accomplished something special. He added that the military has moved well past the days when such accomplishments were unusual. “The diversity of our armed forces is what makes us strong,” Schwartz said.
While completing the course is no cake walk, Elosiebo had a leg up on most other students at Fort Rucker. In her civilian career, she previously earned her FAA commercial pilots license and became a certified flight instructor.
Elosiebo follows in the path of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American fighter pilots. Before World War II, black pilots were barred from earning their wings in the Army Air Corps. The Pentagon’s rationale was that African-Americans could not be taught to fly. But after being forced to go through pilot training three times before being sent to the fight, they became the best of the best. In the bomber escort missions they flew in Europe, they never lost a bomber.
Elosiebo has a strong connection to the Tuskegee Airmen. She received one of her many scholarships from one of their association chapters, and they supported her when she began pursuing her private pilot’s license at age 19. In addition, she has worked with, and been mentored by these living legends, including Herbert Jones, who formed the first African-American-owned airline in the U.S.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A new exhibit created by a University of Pennsylvania professor and host of a popular public television show examines how wartime propaganda has been used to motivate oppressed populations to risk their lives for homelands that considered them second-class citizens.
“Black Bodies in Propaganda: The Art of the War Poster,” opens Sunday and continues until March 2 at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. Lectures, film screenings and other programming will be rolled out over the course of the exhibit’s run.
The exhibit’s 33 posters, dating from the American Civil War to both World Wars and the African independence movements, are part of the personal collection of Tukufu Zuberi, Penn professor of sociology and African studies and a host of the Public Broadcasting Service series “History Detectives.”
Zuberi began his collection in 2005 and owns 48 posters in all. There are five he’s seeking to complete his collection, but he’s not divulging any specifics. “Oh, I don’t want to go there,” he said with a laugh. “If I say anything, then there’s going to be someone out there with more money and I won’t be able to buy anything again.”
The First U.S. Colored Troops Recruits at Camp Nelson in Danville, Kentucky were honored at a dedication ceremony Monday. A historical highway marker was unveiled by re-enactors from the 12th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery Regiment from Camp Nelson for the men.
On May 23, 1864, nearly 150 African-American men, mostly slaves, left Boyle County to march to Jessamine County to enlist in the Union Army. On the way, people from Danville threw stones, and shot pistols at the recruits. When they reached Camp Nelson, they were initially turned away by Union Col. Andew Clark because there was no policy for the recruitment of slaves.
The men were accepted into the Army, which prompted a Union policy change allowing able-bodied African American men into the service. More than 5,000 U.S. colored troops were eventually recruited at Camp Nelson. To see a video of the dedication, click the link below: