Photo caption: Image – Mortar Practice Grouping – of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Cleveland’s Public
More than 100 black war veterans will finally be recognized at a site in downtown Cleveland that pays homage to men who fought in the American Civil War. The 1894 Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Cleveland’s Public Square is one of the most visible sites in the city and attracts around 40,000 visitors inside the memorial building every year. The breathtaking monument consists of an imposing 125-foot column topped with a statue of the Goddess of Freedom. Inside, the names of 9,000 Civil War veterans who served with Cuyahoga County regiments or were from that same area are engraved in the marble tablets that line the walls.
It was in 2010 that researchers verified the service of around 140 black soldiers from the area who fought in the Civil War but were omitted from the tablets. The commission overseeing the monument said it will honor these men, mostly like by inscribing their names on the tablets, and others they uncover through additional research.
When outgoing defense secretary Leon Panetta lifted the military ban against women serving in combat, a common phrase heard in response to his decision was this: women have been serving for decades in combat zones indirectly, and risking their lives. The lifting of the ban was merely a formality that in many ways acknowledged the bravery and sacrifices women in the military have been making for decades.
New York’s Daily News has published an essay with a similar theme in honor of black women to commemorate Black History Month. Much as women in general have been contributing without appreciation for their level of service, the significant participation of African-American women in the military has been largely overlooked — perhaps to an even greater extent.
“According to the Indiana-based Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum, African-American women have played a role in every war effort in United States history,” writes Jay Mwamba of theDaily News. “And black women participated in spite of the twin evils of racial and gender discrimination.”
Nwamba goes on to recount the heroic feats of black women who fought for the American way in creative, mind-blowing ways, pushing themselves to the limit to enhance various military efforts. Harriet Tubman, who acted as a spy, nurse and scout during the Civil War. Cathay Williams, who, after being freed from a plantation by a Union contingent, pretended to be a man so that she could enlist in a peacetime army.
“For two years — until she fell ill and her ruse was discovered — Williams served as a Buffalo Soldier with the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment,” Mwamba relates.
Now that is truth being stranger than fiction.
But we don’t have to go back to 1866, the year Williams enlisted, to find African-American sheroes engaging in daring feats. As recently as 2009, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Michelle Janine Howard used military might to wrestle with forces of darkness. The first black woman to command a Navy combat ship, Howard made headlines when her vessel tangled with Somali pirates in the process of rescuing the captain of a merchant ship from captivity.
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:
“Thank God you’ll never have to see a war like that,” Howard Lynch said to the Little Brother he mentors, Zack Skiles.
The “African Americans in World War II” exhibit at theKalamazoo Valley Museumopened on January 12, displaying 40 photographs of how life was for men and women during the most widespread war in human history.
“It’s interesting we’re finally starting to feature African Americans in military history,” Lynch said. “It’s nice to see them get their day in the sun.”
The exhibit on the first floor gallery is on loan from The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History. On the walls are photographs of famous soldiers such as heavyweight boxer Joe Louis and Benjamin O. Davis, the first African American General Officer in military history, and also unknown privates engaging in everyday military life.