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8 Great Strides for Freedom in U.S. History

8 Great Strides for Freedom in U.S. History


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The founding fathers set a high standard of ideals for the new nation to live up to back in 1776. But from the very beginning, debate about the best way to do that has been an inherent part of the American experiment. Since its founding, the United States has had both high and low moments on its road to ensuring freedom and equality for its citizens. Take a look back at eight moments in history when the nation made strides toward ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—for all.

1. The Declaration of Independence

More than a year after fighting broke out between colonial militia and British forces in April 1775, the Continental Congress in Philadelphia finally decided to declare the independence of the North American colonies. The main goal of the Declaration of Independence, adopted on July 4, 1776, was to present the colonists’ grievances against Great Britain, but it would be Thomas Jefferson’s introductory words (“We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”) that would echo most strongly through generations to come.

2. The Bill of Rights

VIDEO: The U.S. Constitution

After several failed attempts at creating a government, a 1787 convention is called to draft a new legal system for the United States. This new Constitution provides for increased federal authority while still protecting the basic rights of its citizens.

In the earliest years of the new nation, many people opposed the Constitution because they thought it gave the federal government too much power over its people. As soon as the new U.S. Congress met, it began debating a number of constitutional amendments, the first 10 of which were ratified in December 1791 as the Bill of Rights. By guaranteeing certain fundamental rights—including freedom of speech and religion, the right to bear arms and the right to a fair trial—against infringement by the federal government, the Bill of Rights greatly expanded the civil liberties of Americans, with implications that are still being debated today.

3. The Abolition of Slavery

By 1862, President Abraham Lincoln had become convinced that freeing the South’s slaves was critical to the Union effort to win the Civil War. Though the Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect the following year, applied only to the slaves in Confederate states, Lincoln made it clear in his historic Gettysburg Address that the Union now fought to provide a “new birth of freedom” rather than simply bring the South back into the fold. Passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865 abolished the institution of slavery, and granted liberty to more than 4 million black men, women and children formerly held in bondage.

4. ‘Yearning to Breathe Free’— The Era of Immigration

“Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the poet Emma Lazarus imagined the Statue of Liberty saying to the world in her famous sonnet “The New Colossus.” From 1880 to 1920, more than 20 million immigrants came to the United States seeking freedom and new opportunity. Whether they were fleeing religious persecution (Eastern European Jews), hunger and poverty (Italians), or war or revolution at home (Armenia and Mexico), the United States welcomed these new arrivals—with the notable exception of people from Asian countries, whose entrance was strictly limited by laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This relatively open-door policy ended with the onset of World War I, and in the 1920s a series of new laws would be introduced to limit immigration.

5. The 19th Amendment

Some 72 years after the national women’s rights movement launched at Seneca Falls, ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 finally gave women the right to vote. Despite setbacks and internal divisions in the decades after the Civil War, the suffrage movement gained momentum in the early 20th century, as protesters were arrested, imprisoned and in some cases went on hunger strikes for the cause. After Tennessee became the last necessary state to ratify the 19th Amendment in August 1920, women across the country headed to the polls to exercise their long-awaited right to cast their ballots in the presidential election that fall.

6. D-Day

“People of western Europe…the hour of your liberation is approaching,” General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, announced in a speech broadcast via radio on June 6, 1944. By the end of that day, some 156,000 American, British and Canadians forces had landed simultaneously on five beachheads in northern France, beginning the Allied invasion of Western Europe during World War II. As Eisenhower’s speech had predicted, the triumphant landing marked the beginning of the end for Adolf Hitler’s Nazi forces, which would surrender unconditionally less than a year later.

7. The Civil Rights Act of 1964

VIDEO: Civil Rights Act

After years of struggle and setbacks, advocates for equality celebrate the passage of sweeping legislation that prohibits racial discrimination.

In 1963, as civil rights activists protesting segregation and voting restriction across the South met with violent opposition, and hundreds of thousands of people marched on Washington to demand “Jobs and Freedom,” President John F. Kennedy introduced the first major civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. After JFK’s assassination that November, his successor Lyndon B. Johnson took up the cause, doggedly pushing the bill through stiff Democratic opposition in Congress. On June 2, 1964, Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act, which ended the segregation of public and many private facilities, and outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

8. Freedom to Marry

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling declaring that the Constitution guarantees to same-sex couples the freedom to marry. The case that led to this milestone achievement for the gay rights movement, Obergefell v. Hodges, began when same-sex couples sued in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee, declaring that their states’ bans on gay marriage were unconstitutional. In a decision that echoed the Court’s 1967 verdict in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down state laws banning interracial marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy declared that the freedom to marry was one of the most fundamental liberties guaranteed to individuals under the 14th Amendment, and should apply to same-sex couples just as it does to heterosexual couples. “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Kennedy wrote. “The Constitution grants them that right.”


Black History Timeline: 1930–1939

In the midst of the Great Depression and Jim Crow laws throughout the 1930s, Black Americans continue to make great strides in the areas of sports, education, visual artistry, and music. This decade sees many revolutionary books and novels published and the formation of several key Black organizations and institutions.

April 7: One of the first art galleries to feature Black art opens to the public at Howard University. Founded by James V. Herring, a Black American, the Howard University Gallery of Art is the first of its kind and its first exhibition is so successful that a permanent collection is created. Since establishing the university's art department in 1928, Herring has been directing the department's artistic vision and using it to give Black art a platform ever since. Herring has a say in all work that is showcased and a hand in the careers of many up-and-coming Black artists that come through Howard University, including Alma Thomas and David Driskell. Herring is a proponent of breaking down racial boundaries within art rather than showcasing only Black art, and so features the work of Black and non-Black artists together in his galleries. He feels that keeping Black and White art separate only adds to the narrative that Black art is not equal to White art and that similarities should be celebrated.  

July 4: The Black Islamic movement known as the Nation of Islam (NOI) is established in Detroit, Michigan, by Wallace Fard Muhammad. Within four years, Elijah Muhammad takes control of the religious movement after Wallace Fard Muhammad's retirement, relocating its headquarters to Chicago. The goal of this radical Black religious group is to improve the lives of Black Americans by helping them achieve independence, peace, and unity with one another. A few years after it is founded, the NOI acquires many followers. But because the group supports Black nationalist ideas including the separation of Black people from the rest of society and promotes anti-semitic and anti-White ideologies, this group also gains many critics, including Black Americans who see this movement as detrimental to the civil rights movement.  

Walter White as NAACP Secretary: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hires Walter White as its executive secretary. With White in this role, the organization becomes more effective at exposing and reducing racial discrimination. He implements more aggressive campaign tactics including protesting and lobbying politicians and other elite Americans, strategies that make the organization more powerful than ever before. White also succeeds in fundraising for the NAACP, heading legal campaigns, and supports many Black artists during the Harlem Renaissance.

Important to White's success is the fact that he is a Black man whose lighter skin causes him to often be mistaken for White. He uses this to his advantage to get close to powerful White people and investigate cases of violence against Black people such as lynchings and riots. He exposes information about over eight race riots and 40 lynchings acquired in these investigations and brings these injustices against Black people to the public.  

Symphony No. 1 "Afro-American": Symphony composer William Grant Still becomes the first Black American to have his music performed by a major orchestra. His piece, "Symphony No. 1 'Afro-American,'" is composed in 1930, performed by the Rochester Philharmonic in 1931, and four years later performed by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. The symphony features elements of jazz and the blues and is likened to a Black spiritual. Still's music celebrates Black culture and portrays the trials and tribulations Black Americans have faced over centuries, including enslavement and discrimination.  

March 25: In March, nine Black young men—one of whom is only 13 years old and the oldest 20—are accused of raping two White women in Scottsboro, Alabama. They come to be known as the Scottsboro boys. The boys are found riding the train illegally and taken into custody by the police, who convince two White women, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, to claim that the boys had raped them. The young women make the false claims likely because they do not want it revealed that they too were riding the train illegally, but Price is a much more willing witness than Bates, who says very little throughout the trial. The nine Black youths are Andrew Wright, Leroy Wright, Charlie Weems, Clarence Norris, Eugene Williams, Haywood Patterson, Olen Montgomery, Ozie Powell, and Willie Roberson. Their case begins on April 6 and they are quickly convicted of the crimes and sentenced to death Leroy Wright, the youngest, to prison for life. Samuel Leibowitz is their defense attorney, and he works for no pay.

The case of the Scottsboro Boys quickly receives national attention, thanks to the efforts of various organizations and protesters fighting for their freedom. The NAACP and American Communist Party, particularly the International Labor Defense, come together to form the Scottsboro Defense Committee. This committee ensures that the case is kept as public as possible and that America understands racism is at play. In 1933, Bates testifies that she and Price had never been raped and she joins the fight to free the boys. In 1937, four of the boys are released. Over the next several years, the remaining five are paroled or escape from prison.  

Tuskegee Study: A 40-year study begins in Tuskegee, Alabama, testing the impact of syphilis on 600 Black men. Three hundred ninety-nine of the men have syphilis and 201 do not. The "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" or the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is established through the U.S. Public Health Service in partnership with Tuskegee University. The men are never informed that they have the disease or told the true purpose of the study, which is not to help them but to examine the effects of late-stage syphilis that is left untreated. Because the participants are misled about the goal of the experiment and lied to about their treatment, the study, carried out without their informed consent, is one of the most egregiously unethical experiments ever conducted. The study goes on for 40 years.

The participants are told they are being treated for "bad blood" and compensated for their participation with free food and medical exams, but none receive proper treatment for their syphilis, even when penicillin is discovered to be highly effective at treating the disease. Only placebos and methods already known to be ineffective and/or toxic are administered, as well as non-therapeutic diagnostic procedures, such as spinal taps, which the clinicians call treatments to get the patients to agree to them. The clinicians are aware of the dangers of untreated syphilis infections, which include cardiac complications and paralysis among many other things, a few years into the experiment, yet they continue the experiment. This study comes to represent the widespread problem of racism in the medical field and causes many Black Americans to mistrust the intentions of medical professionals. When the experiment is finally terminated in 1972, most of the participants have transmitted syphilis to their partners and passed it down to their children and many have died from health issues related to their untreated syphilis.  

"Take My Hand, Precious Lord": Thomas Dorsey, known as the "father of African-American gospel music," writes "Take My Hand, Precious Lord." His work joins gospel and blues music, two genres notable in Black culture, and becomes a leading influence in the fledgling genre of gospel blues. He also impacts the way gospel music is performed, encouraging choir members to move their bodies and dance while performing and interpret musical compositions loosely.

Los Angeles Sentinel: Leon H. Washington publishes Sentinel in Los Angeles. This weekly Black newspaper is the largest Black-owned newspaper in the country and one of the oldest Black publications as well.  

Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts: Sculptor Augusta Savage opens the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts out of Harlem, New York. This is the largest art center in the United States. Savage becomes the first Black woman to join the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors. Her work pays tribute to Black Americans—some artists and musicians, some politicians and leaders, and others common people—and depicts them authentically and with great detail. Over the course of her career, Savage sculpts busts of both Marcus Garvey, Black nationalist and founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and W.E.B. DuBois, a writer and civil rights activist. One of Savage's most famous sculptures, Gamin, depicts a Black boy, her nephew, with realistic features, a relatively atypical practice both in style and subject. Black children see her sculpture and appreciate finally seeing art that looks like them.  

Donaldson Collection / Getty Images

Along This Way:James Weldon Johnson publishes his autobiography, "Along This Way." Johnson, a writer and activist his whole life and the executive secretary of the NAACP from 1920 to 1930, writes about his experiences as a Black American and the discrimination he has faced because of this in his personal life and career. After retiring from the NAACP, Johnson becomes a professor at Fisk University in 1932 and the first Black professor at New York University in 1934. Other published works by Johnson include "The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man," "God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse," "Fifty Years and Other Poems," and "Book of American Negro Poetry." Johnson joins prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance including Zora Neale Hurston, Louis Armstrong, and Langston Hughes and comes to represent Black intellectualism.  

Mis-education of the Negro:Historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson publishes "Mis-education of the Negro." Dr. Woodson, an educator since 1903, feels passionate about bettering the country's education system for Black Americans. This book details everything that he sees wrong with the way the American education system educates, or "mis-educates," Black students. In particular, he criticizes the way that schools fail Black students by not taking their environments and experiences as Black Americans into account when teaching them. This approach, Dr. Woodson argues, is a disservice to Black students because it discourages them from embracing their culture and history and conditions them to feel as though the only way to succeed is to be more like White people and do as they are told. Dr. Woodson's book provides valuable insight into the ways that the nation could improve its treatment of Black Americans and Black activists get to work lobbying for more inclusive and effective educational practices. Dr. Woodson's other books, many of which discuss topics presented in "Mis-education of the Negro," include "The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861" and "The Negro in Our History."  

Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois Leaves the NAACP: Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois resigns from the NAACP. He has served as the organization's director of publicity and research and as a member of the board of directors from 1910 to 1934. Dr. Du Bois, who helped to found the NAACP, also runs the organization's monthly publication, The Crisis. He makes the decision to leave the NAACP when his increased interest in marxism, African nationalism, and more radical approaches to fighting racism no longer align with the organization's desire to achieve equality for Black Americans through advocacy and legislative advancements.  

'Jonah's Gourd Vine': Anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston publishes her first novel, "Jonah's Gourd Vine." Hurston is inseparable from the Harlem Renaissance and she earns much praise and backlash for her work, which defies societal norms. She writes almost exclusively about Black Americans, and she does so without concealing aspects of their identities or the struggles they face. "Jonah's Gourd Vine" is the first of many novels she would write and it tells the story of a young Black couple. This novel incorporates elements of southern Black culture such as hoodoo practices and Hurston writes realistically about living as a Black American in a community dominated by racism. She writes in Black Vernacular English and her willingness to portray Black Americans genuinely is unprecedented and pushes boundaries set by writers before her. Her novels and plays, with their use of folklore and Black cultural themes, contribute in a small way to a greater acceptance of Black Americans in society by White people.  

Afro Newspaper / Gado / Getty Images

Count Basie Orchestra: Pianist Count Basie establishes the Count Basie Orchestra, which becomes one of the most popular bands of the Swing Era. Basie and his group come to define big band sound and popularize the jazz genre. He records with other prominent Black musicians including Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald.  

February–April: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Norris v. Alabama that a defendant has the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. This ruling overturns the Scottsboro Boys' early conviction, which was handed down by an all-White jury. Upon investigation, the court discovers that Black Americans have never been made jurors in the county where the trials took place and finds the deliberate exclusion of qualified candidates on the basis of race to be unconstitutional. This ruling not only affects the outcome of the Scottsboro case by reversing the ruling made by the original jury but also impacts America's judicial system by forcing officials to consider the importance of diversity and inclusion in the U.S. court system.  

July: The Southern Tenant Farmer's Union (STFU) is established by the Socialist Party to assist southern sharecroppers in fighting for better wages and working conditions. Sharecroppers and tenant farmers are being exploited by landowners and planters and cheated out of fair wages, sometimes even evicted for little to no reason. The union is formed by 11 White and seven Black men who feel that they are similarly disadvantaged as farmers. The STFU is one of the first unions to be fully integrated, and it is this fact as well as the organization's socialist ties that garner negative attention. Many attacks occur during union meetings, some race-based and others based on fear of the communist party. Women are allowed to attend some meetings, which also makes this union stand out.  

December 5: Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune establishes the National Council of Negro Women, calling more than 28 leaders of national women's organizations together. This is the first national council comprised of Black women's organizations. As Black women accustomed to facing discrimination and being excluded from politics, members of this council come together to advocate for themselves and achieve equality in a society that disadvantages them both for the color of their skin and their gender. Dr. Bethune chooses Washington, D.C., for the council's headquarters. Coretta Scott King is one of the members. The group sponsors efforts intended to equip Black Americans with knowledge about how to better their quality of life and lobbies politicians for everything from diversity in the White House to the abolishment of poll taxes designed to disenfranchise Black voters.  

Division of Negro Affairs: Dr. Bethune is appointed Director of the Division of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration. She is the first Black woman to receive a presidential appointment and is the highest-ranking Black woman in an administrative position in President Theodore Roosevelt's administration. This branch partners with universities, politicians, and business owners to help prepare Black women for the workforce. Thousands of Black girls and young women participate in programs Bethune organizes, earning money during their job training and bettering their communities by supporting essential industries like healthcare and education. An estimated 300,000 Black young women come through this program.  

Syphilis and Its Treatment:Dr. William Augustus Hinton becomes the first Black American to publish a textbook when he writes Syphilis and Its Treatment. In 1929, Hinton developed a blood test for diagnosing syphilis that was determined to be superior to existing tests—including Wassermann and Sigma—because it provided more accurate results and was easier to administer. This book discusses Hinton's findings after years of researching syphilis. Hinton's work has a profound impact on the field of medicine and his textbook gains the respect of many medical professionals and scholars. In this way, he helps to prove the capabilities of Black Americans. However, not all members of the scientific community recognize his accomplishments or take him seriously as a professional because he is Black, and Hinton strives to overcome the trials presented by his race throughout his career.  

First Black Federal Judge: William H. Hastie is appointed by President Roosevelt as the first Black federal judge. Hastie serves on the federal bench in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Roosevelt's decision to appoint a Black judge is driven by his desire to replicate the success of Black judiciaries appointed by the British to the West Indies. He feels that appointing a Black person to a judicial office in the Virgin Islands, where the population is predominantly Black, will prove beneficial to constituents. Hastie is a judge here until 1939.  

August: Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. His achievement thwarts Adolf Hitler's plan to use the Olympics to demonstrate "Aryan Supremacy" to the world. When Owens, a Black man, wins, he proves that Black people are capable of standing up to White athletes. Many feel that his participation in the Olympics this year was dangerous under Hitler's leadership, and NAACP director Walter White urged Owens not to participate. Owens, however, felt it was important to represent Black Americans in sports and went in spite of the danger being Black under Hitler's racist regime presented.  

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Negro Dance Group: Katherine Dunham forms the Negro Dance Group. Dunham's group performs Afro-Caribbean dance and executes routines that portray folktales and elements of Black heritage. Dunham revolutionizes modern concert dance by incorporating racial messages into her choreography and introducing bold and rhythmic interpretations not standard to European-inspired dance during this time.  

June 22: Joe Louis wins the heavyweight championship against James J. Braddock at Comiskey Park in Chicago. This makes him the first Black heavyweight champion. This is seen as a small victory for Black Americans in the pursuit of equality because a Black man's accomplishment is highly publicized.  

September 18: Zora Neale Hurston publishes the novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God." This book about a young Black woman looking for love while navigating grief is arguably her most famous and influential work and it takes its place as one of the most prodigious products of the Harlem Renaissance. The novel is rich with Black cultural references and covers issues such as racism in the south. However, it is not well received by many Black readers who feel that Hurston's portrayal of Black Americans is rife with racial stereotypes and lacking in depth, perhaps for the purpose of appeasing White readers. Among those who criticize the novel in this way are Alain Locke and Richard Wright. The novel sells fewer than 5,000 copies in its first 30 years.  

October: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids signs a collective bargaining agreement with the Pullman Company. This contract raises wages for rail workers, shortens their hours, and betters their working conditions.

George Rose / Getty Images

First Black Woman to Become a State Representative: Crystal Bird Fauset becomes the first Black woman elected to a state legislature. She is chosen for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, which is comprised of two-thirds White representatives. In this role, she introduces nine bills. Fauset is also responsible for founding both the Black women's division of the Democratic National Committee known as the Colored Women's Activities Club and the United Nations Council of Philadelphia.  

February: Jacob Lawrence debuts his work in an exhibition at the Harlem YMCA. Lawrence depicts life as a Black person in many nuanced ways and paints Black historical figures including Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Lawrence believes that there is beauty in overcoming difficulty and chooses to paint Black people, who have endured enslavement and oppression for centuries, for this reason. His unique style is a form of cubism, and his work is quickly raised to a level of national recognition. Some of his most notable works include "The Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture," "The Migration of the Negro," and "Harlem."  

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Black Actors Guild of America: The Negro Actors Guild of America or the Black Actor's Guild is founded by Fredi Washington, Ethel Waters, and others in association with the Theatre Authority, a nonprofit that organizes welfare efforts for performers. Tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is made honorary president of the group. This organization is formed to positively change the way Black Americans are portrayed in media, provide support to impoverished entertainers, and educate the public about working as a Black entertainer. The Negro Actor, a quarterly journal, is published primarily to accomplish the latter.  

First Black Woman to Become a Judge: Jane M. Bolin is appointed to the domestic relations court of New York City. This appointment makes her the first Black woman to become a judge in the United States.

April 9: Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial in front of 75,000 people on Easter Sunday. This is significant to Anderson's career because she has been denied many bookings over the years due to racism and Eleanor Roosevelt presents her with the NAACP Spingarn Medal this year as well.  


12 thoughts on &ldquo Fighting for the Four Freedoms &rdquo

How did minorities face threats to their freedoms at home and abroad during WWII?

Minorities in the U.S. faced a lot of trials during WWII. America portrayed a “happy” picture in which minorities were equal to white people. In reality, minorities were fighting to keep their freedoms and maintain a sense of equality as the Americans. One can see the mockery of the Good Neighbor Policy through the way that Mexican Americans were treated during this time. According to the policy, the U.S. would be a good neighbor to Latin American countries. During the time of the War, there was a lack of field workers here in the U.S. The Mexican and U.S. government decided to create the Bracero Program, which allowed Mexicans to come to the U.S. to work. It was a great economic idea in order to produce more products to sell, but the treatment of the workers wasn’t the best. Mexicans were forced to work in harsh conditions because they weren’t citizens and, therefore, could be deported at any time. Even the Mexicans who were citizens had a hard time here in the U.S. They were forced to work for less money compared to the white Americans. Some of their freedoms were given back after Texas created the Equal Privileges resolution. Since Mexicans were considered Caucasian, they were “entitled to equal treatment in places of public accommodation.”
Freedoms for both Native Americans and blacks have been challenged since the beginning of this nation. According to a black steelworker, the Four Freedoms was meant to include all races. During the time of WWII, these war veterans from these groups tried to utilize the G.I. Out of the 2 groups, blacks were the group of people that still had limits on how they could use it. Due to segregation, they were only allowed to use the Bill in specific black colleges. Even though their freedoms continued to be challenged at this time, this was the beginning of the end of segregation.
The Japanese were the minority group here in the U.S. that faced the most hardship during WWII. They were stripped of all of their freedom and forced to live in internment camps due to the fear that the U.S. had of spies being planted on our soil. They were forcefully taken to live a prison like place with a prison like schedule without even being questioned for their loyalty to America. According to the text, there were more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans that were forced to live in these internment camps. After all of this, they were forced to enlist in the army after they were forced to pledge loyalty to America. There were only 2 options. Do as the soldiers say or be put in jail for a lack of American pride.

2. What factors after 1939 led to US involvement in WWII?

The involvement of the US in WWII slowly began by the US providing aid to the Allied powers. This aid began because of Germany and Russia attacking Poland. This aid was done by a cash and carry set up where Britain would pay in cash for the goods and then they had to transport, or “carry” them on British ships. Other events, closer to the attacks on Pearl Harbor include the freezing of Japanese assets to limit their ability to buy oil from the international market, and the USS destroyer, Reuben James, was sunk by Germany. What I believe to be the biggest factor of the US involvement in WWII, is the attack on Pearl Harbor. This direct attack on the US pushed the US to declare war on Japan leading to the Axis powers declaring war on the US and we reciprocated the declaration of war.

1. Why did most American support isolationism in the 1930s?

Answer: Americans were fond of isolationism in the 1930s for many reasons. Tensions arising from Japanese and German relations seemed irrelevant to everyday American life. American citizens were okay with being uninvolved in world conflicts, especially after so recently emerging from a devastating world war. There was already existing business with the concerned countries, as well, and the people and companies involved weren’t interested in giving up the potential for profit overseas. The oil, automobile, and aircraft markets were deeply tied to Japan, Germany, and the Soviet Union, making cutting ties with these nations unappealing. There is irony in being entangled in business abroad alongside an intense fear of foreign relations. Opposition to war was common throughout the country citizens were in support for peace, especially after stories of the government profiting greatly from WWI emerged. Immigrants allegiance to their home countries was reinforced during the 1930s, making Americans further fear the idea of expanding into foreign countries. In addition to this, Neutrality Acts were passed by Congress, which banned the selling of weapons to countries at war. These were introduced in hopes of avoiding conflict in freedom of sea trade and travel, which was a great part of America’s initial involvement in WWI.

A. After the end of WWI and through the Great Depression, there was overwhelmingly an anti-war sentiment throughout America. Isolationist views dominated Congress while Neutrality Acts were passed and tens of thousands of college students engaged in “strikes for peace.”
However, isolation could not be maintained for long. Foner states that Winston Churchill called for “the new world in all its power and might” to rescue the old world. Soon Congress decided to sell arms to Britain on a “cash and carry” basis. FDR was elected for a third term in office allowing for his plans to be uninterrupted. The involvement with other countries increased as the US passed the Lend-Lease Act and billions of dollars went in to aiding China, Britain, and the Soviet Union with arms.
This brought back the long proclaimed reason for fighting for America. That the world might be a free place for democracy became the resurrected cause for involvement in the war. What was left was for this cry to become the cry of the general public and this was mainly manifest in the “Fight for Freedom” rally in New York. The demand for an immediate declaration of war against Germany was ended the rally.

Question: How did the end of the war begin to shape the postwar world?
Typically, ending wars lead to new international policies and advancements in technology and economics. The end of World War 2 was no different. With the War’s end characterized by violence and political unrest, the years following were true to their roots. International relationships were strained across the world. New technologies that emerged during the war would change the way wars would be fought in coming years. Finally, there was a massive financial boom in many countries.
International relations will inevitably be strained after a war. After WW. relationships between the US and its former allies were tenuous at best. The greatest example of this was the relationship between the US and Russia. Before the war had even ended, many of the allies were uneasy about their relationships in the first place. There was no trust, and they were only united because of their common energy. After the war, this lack of trust led to greater strain on the relationship, which would eventually lead to the beginning of the Cold War and the Arms Race which would characterize the countries’ relationship until the 1990s. That being said, other international relationships were also strained. The second half of the 20th century was characterized worldwide by decolonization and fights for independence. Sentiments that arose during the War were major contributing factors to this revolution, as international support grew. These all helped contribute to the real need to utilize the UN, which was created after WWII.
Technology can change the course of history, as was the case during and after WWII. Before the turning point in the war, there was a strong emphasis on U-Ships and battleships. After the Battle of Midway, though, there was a massive shift to Aircraft Carriers. This meant a shift in the emphasis of military branches and the development of more aircraft technology. However, the more significant advancement was in the development of nuclear warheads through the Manhattan project. The development of the nuclear warhead ushered in the atomic era, as well as the arms race mentioned before. This came with its own pros and cons, as they helped increase the tensions between countries and, to an extent, kept that tension from escalating to a full-blown nuclear war. They utilized fear, but the effects were undeniable.
Finally, post-war economics boomed. For the most part, countries saw massive advances as technological advances were made and they expanded their trade with other countries. The US also had a heavy hand in the creation of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. These creations, though designed to help increase the financial freedoms of developing countries, have actually contributed to the growing gap between those countries and the world powers. They’ve contributed to the advancement of those countries that were already powerful before their creation, but have done very little to advance others’. These effects, though, would not be felt until later. At first, as mentioned before, economies boomed thanks to expansion, international trade, and technological advancements.

3. WWI promoted a standing idea that during great conflicts or crisis-is the federal government had the obligation to take “war time powers” to protect the country’s security and economy. This idea was vastly enlarged during WWII under the Roosevelt Administration. Instead of a single War Industries Board like in WWI, the government created the War Production Board, War Manpower Commission, and the Office of Price Administration. These departments were meant to work with businesses and labor to maximize output and efficiency for the war effort. However to do this the government knew it had to provide a profitable incentive for businesses. To do this Roosevelt offered low-interest loans, tax concessions, and contracts with guaranteed profits to large corporations. For example, Henry Ford’s factory changed its output from cars to tanks in light of assisting the country while still turning a profit. As a result the GDP skyrocketed and the remnants of the Depression vanished with the production of hundreds of ships, thousands of planes and tanks, and millions of trucks rolling off the assembly line. This affected the government and business by increasing the role of government in the economy by taking such an active hand in production and incentivizing business. Additionally, such policies inadvertently created a military-industrial complex which linked a militarized federal government with big business. Labor movements also made great strides. In order to maintain production levels and peace in the workplace, the federal government forced businesses to recognize labor unions which allowed union membership to increase significantly. Demands such as a maximum hour work week and minimum wage became commonplace in the economy. This three-sided arrangement between government, business, and labor created a thriving war economy that maximized output and saw gains for each groups’ interests.

7.
While the war did indeed open the eyes of many Americans to see the need to accept assimilation and end the discrimination of other nationalities entering into the United States, this did not necessarily end the discrimination of those outside of the white race. As Foner puts it, “patriotic assimilation stopped at the color line.” For Mexican-Americans at the time, there were indeed job opportunities and some rights granted through the Bracero Program. However, many Mexicans lived in constant uneasiness about the looming chance of being deported at any moment. Not only this, but Mexicans were often discriminated against by being payed the lowest wage or a lower wage than fellow white employees doing the same job. Japanese-Americans really had a struggle to face during this time of war, for each person of Japanese ethnicity, whether they were involved with Japanese culture or not, was viewed as a potential spy. Because of this, more than 110,000 ethnically Japanese citizens were relocated to interment camps where many of the basic freedoms being fought for were no where to be found. For Indian-Americans, the war effort brought to light just how limited their freedoms were. Many served in the army and many others left the reservations to work for jobs in war industries. This was the only way to benefit. Otherwise, the status of life on reservations was not benefitted in any way. And finally, the issue of treatment of Black-Americans during this time brought home a lot of ironies that led to the early sparks of the Civil Rights Movement. Copious amounts of prejudice still prevailed at this time of trying to end Nazi race theory. While trying to free Europeans, there were 13 cases of lynchings of blacks on the home front during the years of 1940 and 1941. Medical professionals refused to mix Negro and white blood donations without any scientific basis. Many who served in the army came home with limited access to the benefits of the GI Bill. Ultimately, it was understood that the real fighting against racial prejudice was just as necessary at home as it was abroad.

6. How did the war alter the lives of women on the homefront, and what did different groups think would happen to the status of women after the war?

Because men were needed to fight in the war, women were needed to work in industrial jobs to fill those empty spots. The idea of a strong working woman not only was popularized by the OWI, but also Hollywood and private advertising. Rosie the Riveter become a symbol of the working woman during World War 2, and by the mid-1940’s, women made up over one-third of civilian workers (and even held a respectable number of militant occupations). Because of the war, women had far more opportunities for work and had the chance to work in traditionally male-dominated careers.
Additionally, older (married) women began to work more often, and eventually outnumbered young and single working women. The new working opportunities for women created a need for female labor unions that confronted issues specifically affecting women in the workforce. Many women enjoyed the new freedoms they had as working citizens, and had hoped that these freedoms would live beyond the end of the war.
Although the newly-working women hoped for a permanent adjustment, to the government, employers, and unions, women in the workforce was a temporary thing that they did not feel would be a lasting change. Women were only working because they needed to fill the vacant spots the men at war left behind. Many people, in fact, argued that women should legally be laid off from their jobs when the men returned home from the war. In advertisements, women were told that they, too, were fighting for freedom. That freedom, however, was not the freedom of women in the work field, but the victory of the military. The primary view of the woman was still that she was a good wife and mother that supported her family, which was at the core of a successful American society.

8. The nature of the ideological fight occurring during World War II was the key to promoting the links between racism in the United States and colonialism around the world. World War II was a fight against the ideology of the Nazi and other Axis powers, and their mistreatment of people. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms were given in response to these mistreatments, in particular the Nazi’s mistreatment of the Jewish people. The freedom of religion and the freedom from fear are most centered there. Further the Axis power’s denial of right to work and the ability to speak out against the government and leaders brought the focus of the freedom from want and the freedom of speech. With each of these the power and desire to resist the Axis powers grew, but it also become blatantly clear of the contradictions in the fight the Allies were giving against the Axis powers while allowing the same racist and colonial limitations under their own rule.
Within the United States segregation of the blacks and whites, as well as the treatment of the Japanese-Americans during the war showed that racism was not just a case among Nazism. This treatment of the other races lessened the force of the fight against racism in other parts of the world, while at the same time building the case for the need for more equal treatment of those within the United States.
Colonialism had a similar effect. While the colonies participated and watched as their colonial leaders fought for full freedom against the Axis powers it became clear that there was a contradiction in what they were fighting for verses how their colonies were being treated. In this Roosevelt’s four freedoms again can be seen at the forefront, as the people in the colonies used the basis of the fight against the Axis powers as a reason for their deserved expanded freedoms.

Question 4: How did different groups understand or experience the four freedoms differently?
Answer:
As a class we visited the Norman Rockwell collection at the Museum of Art. Part of the collection depicted the four freedoms as paintings. President Roosevelt in his State of the Union Address in 1941 detailed the four freedoms that are “essential human freedoms”. The four freedoms were: (1) freedom of speech, (2) freedom of worship, (3) freedom from want, and (4) freedom from fear. Different groups of people had different views on the four freedoms.
First, women in the United States viewed the four freedoms in a unique way. For example, women had a unique view on the freedom from want. With a great deal of men going off to war, women were required to work and fill positions of employment to support a war-time economy. Women would fill about 1/3 of the jobs that had been vacated by men going off to war. However, they still had their own types of battles on the home front. Women were seeking for the four freedoms in a different way. They were seeking equality in pay, childcare assistance, and other benefits, such as maternity leave. Then there was also the question – what would happen when the war ended? Women would often be laid off after the war because of the men’s return. The textbook states, “Men in the army seem to have assumed that they would return home to resume traditional family life” of having a loving wife at home and some kids.
The next group would be Mexican-Americans. It seemed that minority racial groups all experienced the freedom from fear in a unique way. For many Mexican-Americans there was difficulty in expressing their rights. In the “zoot suit” riots some of the Mexican-American population was attacked. With Mexican-Americans (and many other minority groups) the four freedoms were brought into question. The freedoms seemed to be limited to white men and not the rest of the American population. Discrimination and segregation was still a major issue. Some parts of the country, like Texas, passed legislation to try and counter the discrimination, at least for some minority groups. Legislation like the “Caucasian Race – Equal Privileges resolution” allowed “all persons of the Caucasian race” to be equally treated in public. Since Mexicans were defined as white they were given a little bit of freedom, but what about blacks?
Blacks were still treated harshly during wartime. They were still fighting for their basic freedoms, including all four freedoms. Lynching’s still took place and racism was still high. Even blood donations made to the Red Cross were segregated. Blacks in the military were cooks or performed other forms of duty which were “noncombat tasks”. When they sought benefits from the GI Bill they were encountered with more racial discrimination to where they didn’t receive the same benefits promised in the Bill. The four freedoms were still being sought after because they were meant for everybody of all races. The Civil Rights Movement would begin during this time period to seek equality. The idea of the Double-V would be presented. The Double-V was a black attitude at the time that sought for victory in the war and victory over segregation.
The biggest group to experience discrimination of the four freedoms were Asian-Americans, especially Japanese-Americans. They experienced the freedoms from want and fear in a striking way. Anyone of Japanese ethnicity was considered to be a potential spy. These feelings led to all Japanese-Americans to be sent to internment camps by Executive Order 9066, except for the Japanese-Americans on the Hawaiian Islands where Japanese American’s made up about 40% of the population. Even government propaganda was anti-Japanese which targeted them as foes and compared them to bestial animals. There would be lots of violence aggression towards them as well during this period.
Overall, I think the book puts it best when it said that “war can undermine basic freedoms.” I think that these four freedoms are a great idea and should be fought for and defended. However, they were experienced differently by different groups of people because war changes a lot of aspects of life. The world is changed by war. From what I read it almost seemed like as a country we will fight and die for the f

As I was submitting this assignment it cut off my last sentence. This is the last sentence: From what I read it almost seemed like as a country we will fight and die for the four freedoms as long as you a white man.


Ludica

As a historian who works on questions of slavery and abolition, I am excited about new games coming out on these issues. This Guilty Land looks like a fascinating foray into the subject. Another recent entrant compelled me to become familiar with the idiosyncratic game designer Phil Eklund, who makes an even bigger case in Pax Emancipation. These games fascinate me -- not only because they are rare games about ending slavery (for analogues, only Freedom: The Underground Railroad comes to mind), but also because their designers use them to make explicit arguments about the past.

I dove into Pax Em first, and it has been a deep dive indeed. I plan to write more about the game itself later. For now, let me start by examining the least ludic component in the box. Sierra Madre’s living rulebook for the game includes 125 footnotes, each of which seems interested in defining terms and clarifying what the game means to represent. These range from interesting to infuriating to sometimes downright silly. But, as they collectively offer insight into what the designer had in mind, they are invaluable to those seeking to understand the game and its argument.

In what follows I offer some first comments on the first ten of these footnotes. I’m not sure I’ll make it past these first 10, let alone to 125. But I thought this might be an effective way to record some thoughts, and maybe generate some useful conversations, about the game.

For what it's worth, I am personally blown away by the Eklund games I know. I'm inspired by his creativity in using games to model complex phenomena not often found in games, I’m impressed by the obvious passion and time that goes into his games, and I'm intrigued by his desire to use games to make powerful arguments. From a mechanical standpoint, Pax Em is a great, innovative, and deep design. I hope lots of people play it, even if I think its central argument is wildly flawed and ahistorical. I'm interested in thinking about how games make historical arguments, and in helping us all be a little more thoughtful about the history we absorb through popular and consumer culture -- from historical fiction, to historical films, to historical games. So this is about giving the game the respect it deserves and taking on its ideas in the spirit of constructive discourse.

Edit: It's worth stating why I'm proceeding this way. Since encountering Pax Em months ago, I knew I wanted to examine Eklund's argument in this game. Problem is, it's virtually impossible to find. A historical monograph or essay would neatly contain it all, and within a structure that helps the reader understand how it all fits together. Instead, Eklund litters his rulebook with footnotes, appendices, and asides. Those are his arguments. Trouble is, they frequently seem to contradict or undermine each other. Historians generally work by framing their interlocutors' cases before addressing them. A basic principle of scholarly discourse is that we do not erect straw men that are easy to knock down instead, we always seek to engage the best arguments we can find. That's hard to do if you can't find a central, coherent statement of the full argument. I hard trouble writing about this game because my impulse was to try to capture the argument succinctly. It finally struck me that I don't need to work harder than Eklund himself at making a coherent case for him. Since Eklund has atomized his argument, working through the footnotes seemed the most viable way to get started.

Edit: In case you want to learn about the academic experience that informs my thoughts, I've added a little bio at the end of this post.

1. It is not the case that "global emancipation" was achieved by 19th-century antislavery activists (slavery in Mauritania wasn’t outlawed until 1981, and of course many people remain illegally enslaved), nor is it the case that before this "all men lived their life for others in a hierarchy of servitude with an absolute monarch on top." Of course, many societies did not have absolute monarchs even those classically considered absolutists, such as James I of England, confronted enormous challenges in exercising their authority "absolutely."

2. "Intellectual slavery" is not a term typically used by historians. Though some speak of "mental slavery" to describe the ways the enslaved were encouraged to internalize the inferiority ascribed to them, Eklund reifies this into practices that need not be slavery, like military conscription, or censorship of the press. Here's a good example of confused categories: a "chattel slave" suffers "intellectual slavery" in being told "who to vote for." I’m unfamiliar with instances in which slaves voted widely and legally.

3. The Enlightenment was not a "discovery." That term implies new knowledge of something pre-existing, and that is not an accurate description of the Enlightenment. While the Philosophes may have posed themselves as discoverers of natural truths (that's always a useful legitimizing founding myth), their ideological innovations came not from nature but their own minds. Math exists in nature secularism and rights are human constructions. Furthermore, Eklund's list of early abolitionists include names not particularly well know for their antislavery (Adam Smith was far from an abolitionist) and excludes actual early antislavery ideologues, such as Benjamin Lay or Samuel Sewall (who wrote and published on of the first antislavery pamphlets, The Selling of Joseph, in 1700). Additionally, many rational exploiters and disspossors (from those who profit from sweat shops to those who profit from environmental exploitation) find it in their rational interest "to flout an individual's rights." That is, exploitation is often both rational and profitable. Finally, no one would challenge Eklund's moral evaluation of slavers as ignoble parasites, but such statements suggest that his enterprise is laden with his own value judgements, rather than the pure expression of reason he presents it to be.

4. Eklund cites John Locke's Second Treatise on Government, which is indeed a powerful statement of natural rights. He neglects, though, to mention all the ways Locke supported slavery, by (for example) acknowledging the basic legitimacy of enslavement as a consequence of just wars, or his investments in the Royal African Company (the state-sponsored British slave-trading enterprise), or writing it into the laws of the Carolina colony of which he was a proprietor. (For more, contrast this Jacobin essay on Locke and slavery with Holly Brewer's recent rehabilitation of him.)

Here we have one of many instances in which Eklund seems disinclined to distinguish between ideals and historical reality. He might pose Locke's defenses of slavery as an unfortunate instance of apostasy (humans aren't perfect, after all), but never addresses the enormous gulfs between the noble ideals people espoused and the infinite ways they found to excuse themselves from practicing what they preached. This theme reappears throughout the rulebook: When Eklund deems that historical actors adhere to the ideals, they are practicing “freedom” when they do not, they are not, even if they say they are (for example, Eklund associates Hegel with “national socialism,” which he associates with slavery – a formulation Hegel himself would doubtlessly contest).

5. Eklund backs his claim that the Glorious Revolution was an important moment in the evolution of the concept of legal and constitutional rights by quoting E.P. Thompson. Not sure why he would quote on this E.P. Thompson, a titanic figure in labor history, rather than, say, Macaulay or others classically associated with this Whiggish view of history.

6. Eklund is right to suggest that the notion of abolishing slavery was largely unthinkable before the emergence of antislavery sentiment among the dissenting sects in the late C17, just as he is right to note that the Bible seems to permit slavery throughout. The danger here is in mistaking a new ideological formulation (slavery is a blight on civilization which should be abolished) with the "discovery" of "natural" principle heretofore hidden (we just found out that all this time slavery was actually wrong who knew?). This leads to a triumphalist interpretation in which secular rationality eventually dispels the darkness and superstition of religion (which Eklund essentially poses as "Eastern" an obvious bit or Orientalism). Perhaps ironically, this reduces Eklund's Enlightenment to a virtual religion, organically and objectively real, itself utterly resistant to rational outside examination he asserts the moral values of the Enlightenment (actually, his version of them) as self-evidence and therefore unassailable. It should go without saying that while this is how a Thomas Jefferson posed his own assertions, it is not how intellectual historians work it is certainly not how responsible modern scholarship understands the Enlightenment. Finally, it neglects that major categories of difference emerged in the Enlightenment that were used then and later to define the boundaries of civic communities. In short, this is where we got scientific racism.

7. Distinguishes between freedom from physical coercion and freedom from natural processes. He indicates no source for this, but it seems poorly thought through. For of course the two are hardly inimical. As he says, we cannot claim enslavement because we can't afford a Mercedes, but this note suggests that only nature justly prevents us from doing so is it slavery for a human to prohibit me from obtaining a Mercedes?. Is it freedom or slavery when qualified job applicants are denied on the basis of their racial, religious, or sexual identity? Was it freedom or slavery when administrators in post-emancipation Jamaica compelled the freedpeople to pay taxes in cash, which could only got by participating in an exploitative labor market? Is it freedom if corporate exploitation of the environment renders unlivable land that could once support human subsistence? Finally, history belies the claim that humanity's great strides are "possible only if all possible entrepreneurs are granted political freedom." Government has sponsored many of the collective goods we treasure, from a functioning federal highway system to sensible food and drug regulation. Entrepreneurs did not get to the moon the government did. In fact, abolition itself was driven only partly by market forces it took states to enforce slavery, and it took states to end it. And capitalism itself could not exist without a means of enforcing contract.

8. Nice statement about individual rights, but it misses the critical challenge posed by all regimes of individual rights: what happens when rights collide? If I depend on the mill stream to send my logs down-river, and you decide to build a damn up-river to power your mill, what are my rights? Rights are only necessary when they are contested this is the only moment and reason they come into legal existence. Eklund's formulation is too simple to appreciate how this question fundamentally informed the politics of the Age of Democratic Revolution. The Virginia planters who supported their Massachusetts brethren predicated their rebellion on their absolute right to hold and enjoy property, which they claimed the crown was abrogating. What kind of property? Property in man. As Samuel Johnson quipped during the revolutionary crisis, “how is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” Abolishing slavery wasn't just about forcing slavery to end at the point of a gunboat, it was about the developing world of free market capitalism deciding whether or not people could be property.

More later, as time and mood permit.

Edit: Since you don’t know me, let me speak for a second about what I bring to this. I’m a specialist in African American history, with a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. My books include: Eighty-Eight Years: The Long Death of Slavery in the United States, 1777-1865 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2015) African-American Activism before the Civil War: The Freedom Struggle in the Antebellum North (Routledge, 2008) Black Protest and Black Identity in the Antebellum North (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002) and Pamphlets of Protest: An Anthology of Early African-American Protest Literature, 1790-1860 (New York: Routledge Press, 2001).

I’ve received funding and support in the form of competitive fellowships from (among others) the National Endowment for the Humanities the Gilder Lerhman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University American Historical Association and Library of Congress the American Antiquarian Society the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Smithsonian Institution.

I’m a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, and co-editor for a series of books on Race in the Atlantic World by the University of Georgia Press. I’ve written numerous essays and book chapters, dozens of book reviews, African-American history curricula, and several digital projects in this same vein. And I’ve taught history – of the US, African Americans, Atlantic slavery, the Civil War, military history, and other subjects – for almost a quarter of a century at a selective liberal arts college.

Finally, I'm a fairly avid gamer, with interests that range from light party fare to heavier wargames in the GMT vein (though I don't play a lot of classic hex-and-counter battle simulations).


Alice Paul: Champion of Woman Suffrage

The National Museum of American History and photographer Robert Weingarten are working in collaboration to build a historic portrait with help from the public. During the week of May 7-11, the museum will present five blogs about significant individuals in American history. Between May 11-28, visitors can vote on which of these historic figures they would most like to see depicted in the portrait. Once a winner is announced, the public will have further opportunity to contribute to Weingarten’s unique process of visual biography. The finished portrait will be displayed at the Smithsonian this fall.

This project is inspired by the exhibition Pushing Boundaries: Portraits by Robert Weingarten, on view July 2-October 14 at the Smithsonian’s International Gallery, Ripley Center on the National Mall.

You may have never heard of Alice Paul, but when you cast your ballot this election season, say a quiet thank you to the person who did so much to win women the right to vote.

Alice Paul, around 1913

Alice Paul came to Washington in 1913 determined to change the established landscape of the suffrage movement that concentrated on winning the vote one state at a time. In just a few weeks she put together a pageant and parade that marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, demanding a Constitutional amendment giving women in the United States the right to vote. The parade took place on March 3, the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, effectively putting the incoming president on notice that a new generation of woman suffragists was quite literally moving forward. The day was marred by violence from hostile crowds, prompting a Congressional investigation into the D.C. police’s protection of the marchers, but the event and its aftermath made headlines. And headlines, bringing public attention, public debate, and possibly public support and pressure, were exactly what Alice Paul wanted. For seven years she kept the demand for woman suffrage squarely in the public and presidential eyes in demonstrations that eventually escalated to picketing the White House and burning President Wilson’s speeches. When her tactics became too “radical” for the National American Woman Suffrage Association, she formed the National Woman’s Party and continued on.

Paul’s life had prepared her for this work. Born in 1885, her Quaker upbringing taught her that men and women were equals. She earned advanced degrees in sociology but was frustrated by the slow progress of social work. To remedy the problems of poverty, health, and education required changing laws—and changing laws required the votes of women. Paul worked for woman suffrage while in college but it was during her graduate studies in England that she became exposed to the confrontational tactics of the English “suffragettes.” When she returned to the United States she was ready to adapt their tactics for an American audience.

The most dramatic episode of Paul’s suffrage battle is illustrated by two small objects in the museum’s collection—a small silver pin in the shape of a prison door with a heart for a lock and a torn fragment of yellow fabric. Such delicate objects to commemorate such outsize courage. In January 1917, discouraged by President Wilson’s continued opposition to the suffrage amendment, Paul posted pickets at the White House gates—the first people to ever picket the White House. These “silent sentinels” stayed on duty in all weather and in the face of threats, taunts, and physical violence. Using their banners and their quiet courage they asked, “Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for their Liberty?” and “Mr. President What Will you do for Woman Suffrage?” Hoping to provoke a response, the language on the banners became more inflammatory. They used the president’s own words against him and pointed out the hypocrisy of his leading the country into the first world war to defend freedom while denying it to the women of his own country.


“Kaiser Wilson” protest banner, courtesy of the Library of Congress



Scrap of the protest banner in the Museum collections

Crowds who believed the pickets’ activities were disloyal in a time of war attacked the suffragists and destroyed their banners. In July the police began arresting the pickets for “obstruction of traffic.” When they refused to pay fines they were imprisoned. When they went on hunger strikes to demand the rights of political prisoners they were forcibly fed—a painful and invasive procedure. The pickets continued despite the risk. Paul had endured such treatment while she was in England. Although she knew what lay ahead and that she, as the organizer of the picketing, would receive a harsher sentence, she insisted on taking her place on the picket line. She was arrested in October. While in jail she was forcibly fed and threatened with commitment to an insane asylum. Reports of the long sentences, abuse, and the courage of the suffragists became public and all prisoners were released in November. In a December ceremony the imprisoned suffragists were awarded the silver “jailed for freedom” pins. Physically weakened by the ordeal but determined to prevail, Paul and her sister suffragists fought on.

The 19th amendment giving women the right to vote was ratified on August 18, 1920. Women had won the vote but not full equality, so Paul and the National Woman’s Party took up the fight for equal rights. Believing that the more she understood about law the more useful she would be, Paul went back to school and earned three law degrees. In 1923 she drafted the text of the Equal Rights Amendment and worked for women’s equality in national and international forums for the rest of her career. In 1972 when Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment and sent it to the states for ratification, Paul began a set of charm bracelets now in the museum’s collection. She added a charm engraved with the date that each state ratified the amendment. She had started her fourth bracelet when she suffered a stroke in 1974. An Ohio state charm dated 2/7/74 was the last one that she added. Alice Paul died on July 9, 1977, at the age of 92. She would never know that the amendment for which she had fought so long and hard would not be ratified.

The objects remain. I don’t think of them as jewelry and fabric scrap but as an award for valor, a counting of votes in silver and enamel rather pencil ticks on paper, and a remembrance of battle. Alice Paul dedicated her life to championing women and their rights. Remember her the next time you vote.

The Sewall-Belmont House and Museum on Constitution Avenue was the final headquarters of the National Woman’s Party and Alice Paul’s home for many years. To learn more about the effort to create a memorial to the imprisoned suffrage pickets visit the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial. The museum also offers information about the woman suffrage movement for kids on the OurStorywebsite.

Lisa Kathleen Graddy is the curator of women’s political history in the museum’s Division of Political History. The Alice Paul collection is one of the first things she worked on when she came to the museum and it solidified her interest in women’s history.


Most Popular Presidents in U.S. History

1 Barack Obama Barack Hussein Obama II served as the 44th president of the United States of America. He was elected in 2008 after serving in the Senate from 2005-08, beating John McCain and becoming the first African-American to be elected President of the United States. He was elected again in 2012, beating Mitt . read more.

The Bush Administration damaged the state of America. Therefore, re-electing the Republican Party felt like a fatal consequence. Mccain himself remained pro-war and shared similar views to Bush while the rest of the Americans were heavily opposed to it. Sarah Palin as well was the reason why everyone turned against the Mccain. Obama's mission to recover America sought out to be challenging but eventually, the economy remained stable all thanks to his policies and his approach. The war in the Middle East was still a dent to his presidency because it was still ongoing but he ordered the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, a terrorist working underground and responsible for the 9/11 attacks. Obama is truly a compassionate man who cares for all Americans. He is the modern President who I admire but is far from perfect.

Barack Obama is such a real leader for USA. He is a good man for all over the world just not for USA.He always want peace everywhere.

This President had to face one of the worst economic downturns in the history of the nation. In addition, the opposition party declared that this President would not get any help from the opposition party. This President had this nation number one enemy captured, where his predecessors could not accomplish. This President got a health bill through congress without the help of the opposition party. It is unfortunate that this country is still listening to the wrong parts of the citizens who do not want equity and harmony in this country. President Obama has performed without the opposition being able to hurt him.

He was faced with a difficult challenge to put this country back on its feet and I felt he could do the job! Mission accomplished.

2 Abraham Lincoln Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States in its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. Abraham Lincoln was born in Feb. 12, 1809, in Hardin County, Kentucky. . read more.

Hahaaahahaaha! Why is Barack Obama #1? No one likes him and it's not because he's black so anyone who says that I'm racist needs to get a grip of reality and understand that most people don't care about your skin color and they just don't like your personality, sorry. Abraham Lincoln is the person we should look up to for ending racism, not some guy who just happened to be black! Saying that white people who are republicans and don't like Obama are racist, that itself is racist! If we were black you wouldn't be saying that! If only your great great grandparents (if they were slaves) were here now. They'd be thankful that their descendants have all of the equality that they do. They'd be way more thankful for Abraham Lincoln than Barack Obama.

My question is why the hell is BARACK OBAMA before the man who freed the slaves, kept the union together, and gave all men the right to vote. Barack Obama, had Benghazi, may have been born in another country (don't even get me started on how that is racist. If George bush was born in France we would still have a problem) spied on millions of Americans, and let ISIS take over Syria and Iraq.

Obama is only higher because he is recent Lincoln will be remembered far more than Obama should be number 1 and Washington number 2

I really like Lincoln, he was my favorite president. He was not perfect at everything but he tried his best his whole life. I couldn't believe he was killed

3 John F. Kennedy John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29th, 1917 - November 22, 1963) commonly referred to by his initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination. The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Nuclear Test Ban . read more.

John F. Kennedy has the highest approval rating in Presidential History. He was a young, handsome and endearing leader who supported the Civil Rights Movement and Expanded the Space Race by sending the First Man on the Moon. This guy despite only serving two years into his first term due to being assassinated. He is an inspiration to many and to the Americans. Kennedy was all about the freedom and the only Democratic President who Republicans admired a lot. He was basically the Lincoln of the 60s. He cracked down on how taxpayer money was sent, especially after being in a phone call over furniture. Conspiraces still arise as no one knows who really did assassinate the 35th President of the United States.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy knew there were conspiracies within the US government. He was on his way to exposing them. That is why this wonderful man was taken from us so early. As was his brother Bobby whose intentions were the same. To expose the corrupted politicians that sought to destroy our country. He had great dreams for the US, dreams his son wanted to go forth with and yet again he was taken also. There will never be another like JFK.

He was a all American man with a normal family and was a wonderful presdient. He was a great father and a leader. he was a man that loved his country and done what was best for his people.. His life was taken way to short he had a lot more things he would and could of done a true American hero taken.

Was fairly unpopular when he was alive, and the reality is that he was president for only about a thousand days, and had not accomplished much with the exception of a nice showdown over missiles in Cuba.He has been idealized due to his assassination while still young and good-looking, and his murder marked a major

4 Ronald Reagan Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004) was an American politician and actor who was 40th President of the United States from 1981 to 1989 . Prior to his presidency, he was the 33rd Governor of California from 1967 to 1975, following a career as a Hollywood actor and union leader until his death in 2004

Worst President in US History. People who support him are uninformed. The facts=
1) Tripled US debt while crippling the borders and outsourcing US manfacturing
2) Doubled crime and poverty while neglecting infra structure for "Star Wars"
3) Took US wealth out of middle class and created elite "1%" with Reaganomics
4) Destroyed education and social safety net with budget cuts resulting in modern standing worldwide in math, science, healthcare, and social mobility
5) De-regulated big banks and industry resulting in stock market crashes in '87 and '99 and the big one in 2009. By contrast FDR policy allowed ONE crash from '32-'82.

He was the greatest president since Carter. so not great. In fact, he was one of the worst world leaders of all time. I know I'm going to get people saying, "No, he was a great president, you belong in an asylum," but I find increasing the debt of a nation, bribing terrorists with weapons, and disregarding a disease because your a homophobic jackass to make someone a pretty terrible human being, let alone a president.

Ronald Reagan always had America's best interest at heart. He made us proud to be Americans. Creating millions of jobs and taking us out of the darkness that was caused by inflation and infighting. The word's that echo in my ears still today are "tear down this wall" and so it was the Berlin wall came down. He was always so respectful of his military and so proud of them. He was a good one, better then most. Wished we had another like him.

Reagan ushered in 25 years of ecomic prosparity with his conservative policys.. Carters resession was worse than Obamas and Reagan got us out of it with real conservative policys lower taxes deregulation and smaller government. Obama is doind what Carter did times 10 and the country is suffering for it. Mark Levin is coming out with a book The Liberty Amendments. I think they could be the solution to our bloted out of control government.. We NEED to serously look at it.

5 George Washington George Washington was the first President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

Washington was the primary founding father of our nation as he led the militia and continental army into crucial battles. Once the war was won, he continued on to be the chairman of the constitutional convention and later the first and only unanimously elected president of the United States. He was considered to be a war hero and demigod among the people allowing him to have ample power to form the union. Being nonpartisan, he led the young country through its early growing pains and left it a more stable institution at the time of his retirement.

George Washington should be number 1. The only president elected unanimously. The president who refused to run for a third term when he was asked in order to ensure a peaceful transfer of power. Without him as president even his enemies didn't think the new nation would have survived. He acted in a nonpartisan manner, for the good of the country as he was very cognizant that the world was watching the American experiment in nation building.

Commander of the Continental Army to President, he set the example for others when he first accepted the office of the Presidency, and then stepped aside for his elected successor. his resignation of his near-absolute authority is an example of outstanding leadership, service to the greater good and civic virtue. our Cincinnatus.

Many Presidents like George Washing, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson deserve that spot. Not Him!

6 Franklin D. Roosevelt Franklin Delano Roosevelt, commonly known as FDR, was an American statesman and political leader who served as the 32nd President of the United States from 1933 to 1945. A Democrat, he won a record four presidential elections and dominated his party for many years as a central figure in world events . read more.

Most important president since Lincoln, steered the country through the Great Depression and into an Allied Victory in WWII. Elected to four terms was the first and only president to break with Washinton's 2-term precedent.

FDR was so popular that he was elected to four consecutive terms. His liberal policies not only helped America defeat the Nazis in WWII, but it gave us out strongest economy in history. FDR's programs from the New Deal, for example social security, are even still in widespread impacting use today. FDR wasn't only one of the best presidents ever, he was among the best leaders in the world.

He was elected 4 times, no other president has ever been elected 4 times most is 2. Since he was elected 4 times he must be an outstanding president that the people elected him that many times.

Fantastic statesman who delivered on his promises kind-hearted, optimistic, intelligent individual who was also incredibly realistic and pragmatic in difficult circumstances.

7 Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt was an American statesman, author, explorer, soldier, naturalist, and reformer who served as the 26th President of the United States from 1901 to 1909. As a leader of the Republican Party during this time, he became a driving force for the Progressive Era in the United States in the . read more.

Loves Hunting, Loves Nature. Loves Fighting, Loves The People. A Man who puts up a Republicans spirit and a Democrats Beliefs. This Man is Americana just by looking at him. Both a Veteran and Politician, he freed the common man from the snake that was monopolies, and therefore, A Great Man and President.

An incredibly tough person, who survived an assassination attempt during a campaign speech, and with the bullet lodged against his ribs, still finished up the speech before going to the hospital. A shame we have nobody like that today.

Leader who accomplished much. Panama Canal, Our national parks, building up our navy, making the United States a dominant force in the world. Was a likeable, witty person, who told it like it was.

How is Barack Obama ahead of this guy? Anyone ever heard of the Rough Riders? Anyone ever heard of Obama's second-term dictatorship?

8 Thomas Jefferson Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father who was principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and served as the 3rd President of the United States from 1801-1809. He was born on April 13, 1743, and died on July 4, 1826, on the same day 2nd United States President John Adams died.

Come on, he is the best! Scientist, atheist, smart guy who didn't involved in any shady business, participated in creation of the Bill of Rights, his quotes are inspiring till now. I could go on forever like this. He is just the best, hands off

Jeez, I hope a lot of the voters on this list are non-Americans, who can be excused for not being familiar with all of the names.
Otherwise, it reflects very poorly on our current educational system.

Wrote the Declaration of Independence and purchased the Louisiana territory.

9 Bill Clinton William Jefferson Clinton (Born August 19th 1946) is an American politician who was the 42nd President of the United States. He previously served as governor of Arkansas. He became president after unseating incumbent president George H.W. Bush in 1992. He was re-elected in 1996 after defeating Senator . read more.

This is one of the best presidents we've ever had. He was Rhode Scholar, a brilliant, eloquent, articulate, humane, compassionate, successful and well loved president and human being! wish we could have had him for unlimited amount of terms!

How this man was ever elected the second time is beyond me. One is never really two different people, moral and honest in one situation and corrupt in another. He really pulled the wool over the eyes of millions of people with his smooth talk. No this man should have never been elected the first time, and definitely never the second time. The fact that he is on this list does not speak well of the citizens of this country!

He was another charmer. I enjoyed his presidency. I felt relatively secure with him in the White house -- not as secure as with JFK (hard act to follow).. But, hindsight is 20/2 and, unfortunately, I believe he made serious mistakes such as with CAFTA and/or NAFTA, among others. I believe Hillary will have learned from his mistakes and make the best President since JFK. Here's hoping.

A talented and yet powerful president of the United States. America in the 90s went well under his presidency when the economy increased despite having flaws as well as the Lewinsky Scandal. He plays the saxophone for crying out loud! this goes to show powerful presidents with talents makes America the Best

10 Donald Trump Donald John Trump (born June 14, 1946) is an American businessman, television personality, politician, and the 45th President of the United States. Born and raised in Queens, New York City, Trump received an economics degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. In 1971, . read more.

He's a man with the right ideas. He's not afraid to spend his wealth on things that he likes, and he's certainly not afraid to face the backlash of American society.

He doesn't play the role of the "good" or "bad" guy -- he just does his own thing and speaks his mind. He's a man who can confidently make decisions he's a man that America needs.

Presidents are not philanthropists. Presidents are human. Humans can be generous. Humans can also be selfish. Being one or the other does not make you a bad person.

However, seeing how our country is more or less made of poor, desperate people who like people who hand out free money, it's no surprise that they're against Trump and his conservative ways.

Trump is going to make us great again we been low on the totem pole for many years in many ways and we are no longer spiraling down. I like a president who talks daily to the people, continually takes abuse from all aspects of the media, does not play the role of politician like the rest of Washington and still manages to accomplish things that no one has in 70 years plus. All of Washington politicians have great benefits so why change things. They are set for life, are you? They are all afraid of a real person. And a person who wants to make change that is needed. I love the comment on Obama, he did NOTHING for me or my health
insurance. And Bill Clinton LOL he used the office that we the citizens of this country OWN for his own shall we say pleasures. Trump is a president your grandchildren should read about and because of him their future will be bright.

What? 10th? He would make america great again? look at his handling of COVID-19 and the George Floyd Protests! He threatened to kill 26 million people, Is racist (by supporting Kung Flu, that is racist in the United States), Forced people to drink bleach, Got the vaccine for the US only, Slowed down testing so we don't know who has tested positive for COVID, And, worst of all, DIDn't CARE ABOUT PEOPLE DYING FROM COVID19 AND ONLY CARED ABOUT THE US'S WEALTH!

Best president since Reagan. Not even close. Brought self respect back to the USA after Obama spent eight years making us a laughing stock.

11 Dwight D. Eisenhower Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was an American politician and general who served as the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe.

According to most history teachers, this great human being never even existed. No wonder today's young voters are happy with such idiots.

Eisenhower was so popular that both the Democrats and the Republicans wanted him to be their nominee in the 1952 election.

A general that always was the spokesperson for peace. A bit forgotten through the ages, but a brilliant man.

Equally famous as commander of Allied forces in WWII and president during the "prosperity" of 1950's America.

12 John Adams John Adams was born on October 30, 1735 in Quincy, Massachusetts, United States. Adams served as the president of the United States from March 4, 1797 to March 4, 1801. He died on July 4, 1826 at the age of 90.

An important founding father, and the most important in the history of Massachusetts, had a difficult presidency that led to partisan tensions throughout the country.

He wrote " May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."

13 Richard Nixon Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States from 1969 until his resignation in 1974, the only president to resign from office. He had previously served as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, and prior to that as a U.S. Representative and also Senator . read more.

He was a great but deeply complicated man, who had good intentions but didn't always do the right thing. His leadership and intelligence helped ease tensions with the USSR and brought China into the international community. He was a great and flawed man, but he was a man.

While Nixon is more commonly hated than any other president, he is easily the most well known. We teach children about him, constantly mock him, and his name is now synonymous for lying. There really isn't a contest here.

Again another president that didn't take the job seriously and is a disgrace to the country

Compared to the Clintons and Obama, Nixon was a Boy Scout.

14 Jimmy Carter James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician and author who served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Carter Center.

Carter may have been one of the most despised presidents of all time, but he was one of the only genuinely good-hearted ones.

Truly a great person, I think we need another like him right now, though maybe a little more competent.

A very kind man and a good human being. No wonder he only lasted one term.

Very nice man. Thoroughly incompetent president.

15 Ulysses S. Grant Ulysses S. Grant was an American soldier and statesman who served as Commanding General of the Army and the 18th President of the United States, the highest positions in the military and the government of the United States.

Seen her getting wasted on hootch before a major battle.

Helped restore America post civil war.

16 Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson was an American statesman who served as the seventh President of the United States from 1829 to 1837 . He was born near the end of the colonial era, somewhere near the then-unmarked border between North and South Carolina, into a recently immigrated Scots-Irish farming family of relatively . read more.

He is a badass action hero who saved New Orleans from the Bloody Brittish. I think he owed slaves and I'm not sure he was a good President, but he was the man in 1812!

Beloved in his day, but despised now (particularly due to the Indian Removal Act).

His face is on a twenty dollar bill he should be number 4 or 5?

He made great strides for the common American citizen

17 William McKinley William McKinley was the 25th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1897 until his assassination in September 1901, six months into his second term.

This guy just creeps me out and scares me kinda glad he was assassinated

18 Andrew Johnson Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States, serving from 1865 to 1869. Johnson became president as he was vice president at the time of the assassination of [Abraham Lincoln]. 19 Lyndon Johnson Lyndon Baines Johnson, often referred to as LBJ, was the 36th President of the United States from 1963 to 1969, assuming the office after serving as the 37th Vice President of the United States under President John F. Kennedy. He helped many Americans with the Civil Rights Act, although many Americans . read more.

Not only did he pass the Civil and Voting Rights Acts Kennedy put into motion before his assassination, but his charisma with Congress assured him the passage of those bills. Under the Kennedy Administration, there was not enough party support for the bills but Johnson not only garnered it, he made sure they would pass. Also he passed Medicare and Medicaid, two of the most important pieces of health care legislation. He understood what the persecuted needed. He was a man who represented the minority: the discriminated, the hungry, the poor, etc.

No, in my opinion, Lyndon Johnson should be on the list for the top ten worst Presidents. Just look up pics. Of him on Google, and read the stories that go along with it and you'll see why.

I'm convinced Johnson was in on JFK's assassination

Did a lot for black peeps

20 John Quincy Adams John Quincy Adams (July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman who served as the sixth President of the United States from 1825 to 1829 at the peak of a political career during which he served in various capacities as diplomat, United States Senator, United States Secretary of State, . read more. 21 Gerald Ford Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. was an American politician who served as the 38th President of the United States from August 1974 to January 1977.

Do you like nachos? Do you like beer? Do you like Football? Well, what don't you come to my house and drink beer and eat nachos while we watch the game!

Gerald Ford was an honest man!

22 Woodrow Wilson Thomas Woodrow Wilson was an American politician and academic who served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921. Born in Staunton, Virginia, he spent his early years in Augusta, Georgia and Columbia, South Carolina. 23 William Howard Taft William Howard Taft served as the 27th President of the United States and as the tenth Chief Justice of the United States, the only person to have held both offices.

William Taft is famous for getting stuck in the bath tub. His wife planted the cherry trees in Washington DC. Japan gave them to her as a gift. Taft worked in all three branches of government. He's the best president and the cutest and the nicest.

Taft was my favorite president and he didn't really get stuck in the bathtub.

Not the most popular president ever, but definitely the sexiest.

People always talk about how he got stuck in the bathtub. But at least he increased the bathtub’s size.

24 John Tyler John Tyler was the tenth President of the United States. He was also, briefly, the tenth Vice President, elected to that office on the 1840 Whig ticket with William Henry Harrison.

A President I know nothing about, but he sounds like a jerk.

Why is Tyler on this list?
He was a bad president!

25 James Monroe James Monroe was an American statesman and Founding Father who served as the fifth President of the United States from 1817 to 1825.

Although, economic panic took place under his administration, James Monroe continued to be a popular leader as he had an ear for popular opinion.


Celebrating ‘National Freedom Day’

While Decoration Day began as a remembrance of those who died in the Civil War, its message was absorbed into Memorial Day as a remembrance of all lives lost in military service to the country. There is nothing to complain about there, and those we mourn and remember in May deserve a day of dedication.

As the great-grandchild of a Swedish-American immigrant who fought with the Union after just five years of citizenship and helped win the Civil War, I feel incomplete without a national holiday recognizing the end of the Civil War and the abolishment of slavery.

I appreciate those who celebrated Juneteenth for 155 years, and I will personally celebrate our sacrifices made for the freedom of all our countrypersons today.

On this June 19, 2020, the spirit around the holiday takes on new significance against a backdrop of national conversation regarding community tensions.

As an American of 41 years, I’ve been celebrating the 4th of July among some of the best people in the world. I’m a devout fan of the Declaration of Independence and based my career on my faith in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Consititution. I’m a third-generation immigrant, but myself and my children are Americans.

The flag of the United States represents inclusion, resilience, and hope. The ideals of the nation the flag represents are still the best in the world.

That flag flew over the Union in the Civil War, and is the flag we sing about in the Star-Spangled Banner. It is the flag that still waves over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Our American flag battled against the Confederate army and defeated the institution of slavery in the United States.

On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The Confederacy lost the Civil War, and slavery was ended, but not everyone got the memo. In fact, there are political doctrines that still stand today that have not accepted the end of slavery fundamentally, and we are suffering as a nation as a result.

Those doctrines ruled the former Confederate states at a cultural level, and the end of the war changed very little in those states’ cultures as witnessed through most of the 1900s, including the establishment of Jim Crow laws.

Juneteenth celebrates the final “memo” to the residents of Galveston, Texas in 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger delivered a proclamation announcing to the remaining Confederate allegiance that they had lost the Civil War and slavery as they knew it was over, that “all slaves are free.”

“This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existed between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.”

The announcement in Texas was particularly significant, as it followed more than two and a half years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Although recognized by 46 states, Juneteenth is not currently a national holiday, nor is there any other holiday to celebrate the end of the Civil War and abolishment of slavery. This is particularly surprising to me now 41 years American.

The United States lost 620,000 citizens to the Civil War. From July 4, 1776 to the current hour, the Civil War was the most significant event in American history in both tragedy and transformation.

Juneteenth — recognized by California as “National Freedom Day” on the third Saturday in June — is the closest thing we have to a celebration of the independence of all people of our nation, although the Civil War failed to correct many cultural and civil rights issues.

For 155 years, Juneteenth has marked a celebration of the proclamation in Galveston, two and a half years after the official end of slavery. Although the Solid South continued injustices after the Civil War that continued for about 100 years.

Now is a time for a bedrock shift in our collective perception. It is time for a new national holiday that recognizes the sacrifices made by those who fought for the rights of all people, the end of the Civil War, the abolishment of slavery, and our continued journey toward a more perfect union.

With its calendric proximity to July 4, there is an opportunity to create a symbolic bridge between June 19 and July 4 to bond both the birth of America and the announcement of freedom for all its people.

The spirit of the two holidays naturally dovetail to promote unity around freedom and independence.

The freedom of our people today would not be available without our original documents, and our original documents would not hold integrity without the abolishment of slavery.

Celebrating Juneteenth is celebrating the freedom won at the cost of American blood spilled on American soil by American people of all skin tones, and led by Abraham Lincoln — who not-so-coincidentally authored the quote gracing the front of the Atascadero City Hall.

Celebrating July 4 is celebrating the establishment of a nation duty-bound to “form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

My great-grandfather moved to Minnesota in 1856 from Sweden to participate in the building of America, at the onset of the Civil War. As a teenager, he fought as a member of the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment for the Union at the Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg. He was five years a citizen of the United States before joining the fight in a country only 80 years old at the time. That is my heritage.

My family was not part of the Revolutionary War, but I personally love celebrating Independence Day because I understand and feel the spirit of freedom. I recognize the power of the Declaration of Independence, and the power of the Bill of Rights of our U.S. Consititution.

Celebrating freedom and independence is something that rings true for everyone in America, even when there are great strides to be made.

As the great-grandson of a Civil War soldier, I believe that the United States did not become the great nation it is today until after the Civil War, while the original documents were great promises.

Juneteenth stands as the single point of recognition of the ultimate end of slavery. Celebrating it together as a nation completely and utterly unsegregated is as American a thing as I can think of. We won. We all won.

All gave some. Some gave all. We are one nation, indivisible. It is time to act like it before we lose the chance.

The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”


Great Strides Made During 2019 Legislative Session

Florida’s legislative session has been called “the 60 most dangerous days of the year” and 2019 has been no exception. We’ve seen extreme legislation pass but we’ve also celebrated some incredible victories and historic progress as well.

By session’s end this month, Florida legislators had passed bills to vilify immigrants put guns in classrooms by arming teachers and limit Floridians’ access to democracy, including voting rights. At the same time, we emerged from the session with unprecedented bipartisan support for adding LGBTQ protections to civil rights laws, made enormous progress on top priorities like updating Florida’s HIV laws, and helped secure funding for a Pulse memorial. Most importantly, we blocked passage of bills that threatened to repeal hard-won local nondiscrimination protections.

In fact, for over twenty years, Equality Florida has been defeating a wide array of bad legislation and gaining ground toward statewide equality. We have been the voice of our LGBTQ community in the state Capitol and in that time we have seen tremendous progress in shifting the culture, educating policymakers, and defeating measures that would do our community harm. This year’s legislative session was one of our most ambitious, and included one of the broadest legislative programs we’ve ever had, from advocating for fully inclusive and comprehensive civil rights laws, to banning conversion therapy, to decriminalizing the lives of people living with HIV, to advocating for abortion rights and personal autonomy in healthcare, to fighting for common sense gun safety reforms in the wake of Pulse and Parkland, to pushing back on anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant fear mongering. There was unprecedented progress on our top legislative priorities and Equality Florida’s record of defeating or neutralizing every anti-LGBTQ bill remains intact.

Within a week of the start of the 2019 legislative session Equality Florida launched its annual Lobby Days program. More than one hundred grassroots activists packed the Capitol and spent two days talking face-to-face with legislators and sharing personal stories. At home, hundreds of Equality Florida members participated electronically via the Equality Florida Virtual Lobby Days program.

The importance of our grassroots lobbyists cannot be overstated. In addition to helping secure 74 cosponsors for the Florida Competitive Workforce Act, they gained 5 new sponsors for the legislation banning conversion therapy on minors, and rallied unprecedented support for legislation that would finally update Florida’s outdated and dehumanizing HIV laws.

Below is a breakdown of all the legislation Equality Florida worked to pass and defeat in 2019. Session comes early next year, and with your support we will be ready to push our legislation forward and win full equality in Florida--nothing more and nothing less.

Bill Summaries:

Equality Florida was visible in every corner of the Capitol, projecting a strong message about the political strength of the LGBTQ community!

Civil Rights Protections:

The Florida Competitive Workforce Act (FCWA) which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Florida’s civil rights statutes emerged as one of the most cosponsored bills this session. Filed this year by Florida’s first out lesbian lawmaker Jennifer Webb (D - St. Petersburg), and Jackie Toledo (R - Tampa) in the House and by Darryl Rouson (D - St. Petersburg) in the Senate, the Florida Competitive Workforce Act would protect the LGBTQ community from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations. In short it provides the same protections against discrimination as every other Floridian.

By the close of session, 74 legislative cosponsors had signed on to the Florida Competitive Workforce Act - the most in the history of the bill. In the Florida House where 61 votes are needed to pass legislation, we secured 57 FCWA cosponsors with a dozen more Representatives pledging a vote in support. In the Florida Senate, where 21 votes are needed to pass, 17 Senators are FCWA cosponsors in 2019. It has never been more clear that we have the votes to prevail.

Another complication emerged this session. An employment-only bill was introduced that carves the LGBTQ community out of the protections in the Florida Civil Rights Act related to housing and public accommodations providing only 1/3rd of the protections afforded other Floridians. Supporters of the the bill argue it was introduced as a way of making protections more palatable to those who oppose full equality. Within days of its introduction this bill and strategy were opposed by national, state and local LGBTQ legal and advocacy groups, including Equality Florida.

Not only did this limited bill fail to move but it drew only a handful of cosponsors and failed to garner support from any member of the Legislature who wasn’t already a supporter of comprehensive and fully inclusive protections (FCWA). We will continue to oppose legislation that designates LGBTQ people as separate, unequal and less worthy of equal protection than our fellow Floridians. We have never been closer to victory and we cannot back down from fighting for full equality. This is not the time to divide ourselves. Now is the moment to stand together and bring unprecedented pressure on the leadership in the House and Senate who refused to hear any legislation addressing discrimination against our community.

Equality Florida Policy Director Jon Harris Maurer stands alongside FCWA Bill Sponsor Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg) and Primary Cosponsor Rep. Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) are joined by cosponsors Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez (D-Miami) and Reps. Amber Mariano (R-Port Richey), Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Winter Park), Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton), Sam Killebrew (R-Winter Haven), Dotie Joseph (D-Miami), Joy Goff-Marcil (D-Maitland), Adam Hattersley (D-Brandon), and business and faith community leaders supporting FCWA.

Grassroots activists thank Sen. Perry Thurston (D-Ft. Lauderdale) for FCWA cosponsoring the FCWA.

Rep. Mike Caruso (R-Boca Raton), an FCWA cosponsor, meets with grassroots activists.

Anti-LGBTQ Preemption Bills:

A preemption is a type of state law that takes powers currently afforded local cities and counties and preempts it to the state - effectively they repeal laws that have been passed at the local level. Early in the 2019 session preemption legislation emerged that could have been devastating for our community. HB 3 threatened to undo twenty years of local nondiscrimination ordinances that protect 13 million Floridians. Every nondiscrimination ordinance in Florida could have been repealed by this legislation in addition to dozens of local bans on conversion therapy and even our state’s local equal benefits ordinances. Our top defensive priority was killing this bad bill. As part of our strategy, and in partnership with the Human Rights Campaign, we hosted a first of its kind press conference including all three members of the Florida LGBTQ legislative caucus (Rep. Shevrin Jones, Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Rep. Jennifer Webb) drawing national attention to the dangers of House Bill 3. Thanks to grassroots activists, our LGBTQ elected legislators and our partners, all anti-LGBTQ provisions in HB 3 were stripped from the bill and it’s Senate companion.

Two similar bills, HB 847 and SB 432, also threatened local LGBTQ protections. As with HB 3, we worked with industry leaders and legislative allies to remove provisions that threatened our community.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Winter Park) warns of House Bill 3’s risks, flanked by Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park), former Rep. Joe Saunders, Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith, Rep. Jennifer Webb (D-St. Petersburg), faith leaders, and Equality Florida staff and supporters.

Pulse Memorial:

This year Equality Florida fought for and won a major victory in Florida’s $90 billion state budget. Working closely with pro-LGBTQ champions Sen. Linda Stewart (D - Orlando), Rep. Holly Raschein (R - Key West), Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D - Orlando), and Rep. Anna Eskamani (D - Orlando) the Legislature ultimately approved $500,000 in funding for the OnePulse Foundation in support of a memorial to the Pulse tragedy. The memorial will be built on the land currently housing the Pulse nightclub. This is the first expenditure of its kind to support an LGBTQ cultural institution and one of the largest public investments made to the Pulse memorial project.

Sen. Linda Stewart (D-Orlando) meets with grassroots advocates to discuss Pulse Memorial funding and the importance of banning conversion therapy.

HIV & Criminal Justice Reform Bills:

HB 79 by Rep. Nick Duran (D- Miami) and SB 846 by Sen. Jason Pizzo (D - Miami Beach) are bills that would finally update Florida’s archaic and punitive laws that criminalize the experiences of people living with HIV and perpetuate stigma. As part of the Florida HIV Justice Coalition, Equality Florida led the legislative work this session to advance reforms to our outdated statutes and bring Florida into alignment with modern HIV science. Our call was clear - it’s time to update criminal laws that put Floridians living with HIV at risk.

With the help of our partner the Sero Project, we brought dozens of advocates living with HIV to the Capitol to share their stories and educate lawmakers. HIV modernization legislation passed two House committees and a powerful Senate committee with strong bipartisan support. We’ve gained great momentum for this bill and look forward to working with our coalition partners to build on this unprecedented momentum next year.

HIV advocates including Equality Florida’s Alejandro Acosta (center) testify in support of HIV Modernization, as the bill passes its first ever House committee hearing

Bill sponsors Representative Nick Duran (D-Miami) and Representative Evan Jenne (D-Hollywood) celebrate with HIV advocates after the bill passes its second House committee

One of the bright spots of this legislative session was passage of Equality Florida supported legislation known as the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act (HB 49 and SB 332). Sponsored by openly LGBTQ lawmaker Rep. Shevrin Jones (D - West Park), Rep. Amy Mercado (D - Orlando), and Sen. Jason Pizzo (D - Miami Beach), the legislation seeks to decrease abuse and increase access to basic hygiene and reproductive healthcare supplies in women’s correctional facilities. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender women make up a disproportionately large percentage of the incarcerated women in Florida and they deserve access to basic hygiene products. This year the legislation earned incredible bipartisan support, passing both chambers with support from the vast majority of legislators and earning the signature of the Governor. Congratulations to Rep. Jones, Rep. Mercado and Sen. Pizzo on this momentous victory for women in Florida.

Representative Shevrin Jones (D-West Park) & Representative Amy Mercado (D-Orlando) explain the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act

The Infection Disease Elimination Act (IDEA): Filed by Reps. Shevrin Jones and Rene Plasencia, and Sen. Oscar Braynon this bill expands a pilot program for clean needle and syringe exchanges that proved effective in reducing opioid deaths and overdoses, and helped reduce transmission of HIV, viral hepatitis, and other blood-borne diseases. Equality Florida supported this bill, which after making increasing progress over several years, passed this year. We congratulate Rep. Shevrin Jones (D-West Park), Rep. Rene “Coach P” Plasencia (R-Titusville), and Sen. Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Gardens) on their success.

Reproductive Freedom Bills:

The movements for LGBTQ equality and reproductive freedom share deep and foundational principles. Legal victories protecting birth control and abortion are the foundation for LGBTQ legal victories as well. Freedom from government intrusion into our personal lives, the right to intimate decision-making, and autonomy over our bodies are cornerstones of both of these causes in common. Equality Florida, as a founding member of the Floridians for Reproductive Freedom coalition, worked this year with reproductive freedom advocates in the Capitol to advance a vision of Florida where all Floridians have control over their own bodies, relationships, and health care.

HB 1335 by Rep. Erin Grall and SB 1774 by Sen. Kelli Stargel, known as the “forced parental consent” bills, would have forced teens to obtain parental consent prior to receiving an abortion, regardless of circumstance. We know that most teens already do consult with their parents, and that if they don’t, there’s often a good reason. That’s why leading health and medical professionals oppose such laws. It’s why Equality Florida staff, interns, supporters, and TransAction members from all across the state joined our partners in opposing these bills in Tallahassee. We stood up for women in the face of protesters and attacks. Though the bill passed the House despite wide objections from pro-choice leaders, it ultimately died in the Florida Senate. Other efforts to restrict abortion rights in Florida were introduced and opposed by Equality Florida but were never heard in committee.

Opponents to the Parental Consent bill, including Equality Florida team members, line the halls outside of a committee hearing.

Gun Violence Prevention Bills:

In the wake of the Pulse massacre in Orlando, Equality Florida committed to honor with action the 49 lives lost by advocating for common sense gun violence prevention. We know that discrimination against the LGBTQ community can be lethal, and gun violence is a civil rights issue that disproportionately impacts minority communities. As a founding member of the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, we now stand with the students and families of Parkland, as they similarly seek common sense gun safety reform.

Equality Florida, students, parents, teachers and many others spoke against the serious risks of SB 7030 and HB 7093, the so-called School Safety bills, that allow for the arming of classroom teachers. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the bills passed and were ultimately signed by Governor DeSantis.

As we have each year, Equality Florida supported legislation banning assault weapons and a bill to expand background checks by closing the “gun show loophole.” Neither received a hearing in 2019.

March for Our Lives students from around the state organized at the Capitol with the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence to oppose arming classroom teachers

Sens. Bobby Powell (D-West Palm Beach) and Lori Berman (D-Boynton Beach), and Reps. Susan Valdes (D-Tampa), Cindy Polo (D-Hialeah Gardens), Dotie Joseph (D-Miami), Michael Gottlieb (D-Plantation), Carlos Guillermo Smith (D-Winter Park), and Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) join March for Our Lives students and the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence to oppose arming teachers

Several other bills were supported by Equality Florida this session including:

Hate Crime Expansion: Although hate crimes laws send an important message about community values, and hate-motivated violence disproportionately targets transgender people, especially transgender women of color, The Florida Legislature missed an opportunity to expand existing hate crimes law to include those based on gender or gender identity.

Conversion Therapy Ban: Banning of so-called “conversion therapy” is growing momentum in cities and counties throughout Florida. It is a fraudulent practice that inflicts immeasurable harm on its victims, and has been widely debunked. As sponsor Representative Grieco explained at a Capitol press conference, it’s time for Florida to join the 16 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico in banning conversion therapy on minors by licensed mental health professionals, however, the bill failed to receive a hearing this year.

Grassroots activists meet with Conversion Therapy Ban sponsor Rep. Michael Grieco (D-North Bay Village).

Marriage Ban Repeal: Despite the passage of marriage equality in Florida in January 2015, and throughout the United States in June 2015, an outdated ban on same-sex marriages remains in Florida’s statutes. A bill proposing a repeal of the ban and another unconstitutional law that defines marriage between only a man and a woman did not receive a hearing in 2019. See our press conference on the bills here.


History of African Americans in the US military

People of color have been integral to American military might from the time of America's inception. Even as settlers of the New World fought for freedom from British rule while enslaving others, many of those enslaved people—African Americans who were at that time legally kept as property by colonists—assisted with war efforts to ensure a more stable future for the forming United States.

Some Black soldiers during the Revolutionary War joined up with the British, who sought more manpower against the colonies and offered the promise of freedom to enslaved men who joined their ranks. Others enlisted on behalf of the colonies, albeit only when Gen. George Washington realized he didn't have enough white soldiers to fight and acquiesced to allow African American men to join up. Over time, slavery fell out of favor with many property owners, particularly throughout the northern states. During the Civil War, around 200,000 people of color served in the U.S. military, either in the Army, Navy, or non-combat positions (including manual tasks like cooking, cleaning, and otherwise supporting the white soldiers).

Other enslaved men fought alongside their Confederate masters, though it's hard to know how many did so willingly. In every military action in U.S. history, then, our military has benefited greatly from the assistance and leadership of Black Americans. Yet even with the integral benefit of Black members of the military, American defense remained segregated through World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Black Americans became pilots, nurses, Marines, and West Point graduates. It wasn't until President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order in 1948 that the armed services were forced to integrate even then, some units refused to do so for several more years.

Even though retired Gen. Colin Powell became a four-star general and the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back in the ‘90s, Black officers remain underrepresented and Black members of the armed services continue to face racial discrimination. One 2017 report showed that black troops faced disciplinary action more often than their white counterparts. A year later, the Coast Guard faced accusations of a racially hostile environment.

Using data from the Pew Research Center, news reports, historical archives, and information from government sites, Stacker compiled a list of 50 key moments in the history of African-Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces. Click through to learn about various hardships, breakthroughs, and significant accomplishments of black soldiers in the military.

In 1775, the British governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, said he would grant Black enslaved people their freedom if they could escape from their masters to fight for “His Majesty's Troops”—although that didn't mean slaves could fight alongside white soldiers. Most of the enslaved women and men performed tasks during the Revolutionary War like cooking, cleaning, and procuring supplies for the British troops. Nevertheless, the decree still had a pronounced psychological impact on Black troop members who could see their value as freedom fighters.

Gen. George Washington in 1775 said no Black person could fight in the Continental Army. Many whites didn't want to fight next to Black soldiers, but Washington—who enslaved peopled himself—also wanted to assuage the concerns of slave owners who worried enslaved people with weapons might rebel. A year later, after Washington couldn't fill the ranks with white men, he said free Blacks with military experience could enlist. Some enslaved Black soldiers fought in place of their enslavers. By 1777, all Black men were allowed to fight.

The harsh winter of 1778 followed the September capture of Philadelphia by the British. By January, the colonists' military encampment at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania had a recruiting problem. The Rhode Island Assembly, therefore, passed a law in 1778 allowing “every able-bodied negro, mulatto, or Indian man slave in this state to enlist.” After a few months, 100 black soldiers signed up in exchange for their freedom. The law was eventually repealed, but 140 black men who had been promised freedom fought in segregated companies within the 1st Rhode Island Regiment.

As the Revolutionary War continued, Congress pressed the colonies for more men to aid the war effort. Maryland gave up some of their slaves, but even though South Carolina and Georgia were offered $1,000 for each slave, they wanted to keep their unpaid labor so badly that they took the side of King George III.

About 5,000 Black combat soldiers fought in the Revolutionary War, and many others served the war effort. Six years before the war's conclusion, in 1777, slavery was abolished in Vermont's Constitution. The rest of the northern colonies followed suit by 1804, but things were distinctly different in the South. Most black soldiers—even those who were promised freedom in exchange for fighting—remained enslaved for many years or until their death.

The Militia Act of 1792, passed by Congress, gave federal marshals the authority to use state militias. Even though Black soldiers fought in the Revolutionary War, only “free able-bodied white male” citizens were now allowed to enlist.

Black soldiers fought for and against the new U.S. colonies during the War of 1812. Those who joined the British were once again promised freedom. During the Battle of New Orleans, there were two regiments of Free Men of Color that fought with Andrew Jackson. Black soldiers also comprised about 15% of the U.S. Navy at the time.

About 4,000 refugee slaves who fought on behalf of Britain as Colonial Marines were freed following the War of 1812. The British offered some members of the Colonial Marines land in Trinidad some of their descendants are still there today.

The Second Confiscation and Militia Act in 1862 made it legal for black men to enlist in the Union army, stating that a “person of African descent [of any rank] . . . shall receive $10 per month . . . $3 of which monthly pay may be in clothing.” Meanwhile, white soldiers earned $13 a month with no clothing allowance deducted. Two years later, Congress made it so Black soldiers received equal pay.

About 179,000 Black men fought in the Union army, making up 10% of the manpower. Another 19,000 served in the Union navy. About 40,000 Black soldiers didn't live to see the conclusion of the war in 1865, mostly dying from infection or disease.

No one knows how many black men—free or slaves—fought alongside Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Some say there were at least a few thousand, even though they were technically prohibited from enlisting. Around 100,000 probably did manual labor that tangentially helped the Confederacy. Civil rights activist Frederick Douglass later said: “Among rebels were Black troops, no doubt pressed into service by their tyrant masters.”

In 1863, a young slave named Robert Smalls didn't want to risk being separated from his family. After the start of the Civil War, he stole a Confederate ship and delivered it to the Union Army, receiving his freedom at the same time.

Starting in 1866, Buffalo Soldiers were an all-Black regiment assigned to the Western frontier to fight against Native Americans, although they also served in places like Cuba, Mexico, and the Philippines. In 1992, President George W. Bush made July 28 “Buffalo Soldiers Day,” acknowledging that racial discrimination meant “they often received the worst food and equipment, and labored without the respect and recognition that were their due.”

Women weren't allowed to serve in the military in the 1800s, but Cathay Williams did it anyway. She used the male name "William Cathay" to enlist for three years starting in 1866. Williams joined the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment after passing a general physical (they didn't examine her whole body). She was honorably discharged after getting sick, but later joined the Buffalo Soldiers— the only woman ever documented to do so.

Henry O. Flipper, who was born into slavery, was the first Black cadet to attend and graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Flipper didn't receive much comradery from his white classmates, but he became the first black commissioned officer in the U.S. Army when he graduated. He went on to lead the Buffalo Soldiers. Flipper was court-martialed in 1881 for stealing, a crime he likely did not commit. President Bill Clinton officially pardoned him in 1999, although he was exonerated a couple of decades prior.

The Buffalo Soldiers fought alongside then-Col. Theodore Roosevelt at the battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Future-President Roosevelt praised the Buffalo Soldiers by saying “no one can tell whether it was the Rough Riders or the men of the ninth who came forward with the greater courage to offer their lives in the service of their country."

After their service in Cuba, and after much praise for the Buffalo Soldiers, President Roosevelt around the turn of the century went on to say, "Negro troops were shirkers in their duties and would only go as far as they were led by white officers." Presley Holliday, a trooper in the all-Black 10th Cavalry Regiment, disagreed with Roosevelt, saying the comments were “uncalled for and uncharitable.” His comments demonstrated that in spite of great strides toward racial equality and the overwhelming service of Black soldiers, American culture still had a long way to go.

Army Sgt. William H. Carney, who was born into slavery, joined the Union army in 1863. He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1900, the first Black soldier to receive the recognition.

Black soldiers applied in droves to fight in World War I, though most didn't see combat and were assigned to manual labor positions. The process was rife with discrimination including Black men being asked to tear off a part of their application so that the all-white board would know the race of the applicant. At the time, the Army was the least discriminatory branch of the military: Blacks were not allowed to serve in the Marines, and were given limited roles in the Navy and Coast Guard.

During World War I, more than 1,300 Black soldiers graduated from officer training camps, which were both segregated and integrated. Many of the white officers treated their Black counterparts poorly, refusing to salute them and not letting them into the same officer's clubs. Black officers also often went without proper clothing.

The 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters, were relieved of U.S. service duties—like cleaning toilets—and sent to France to fight in World War I U.S. Gen. John Pershing needed to provide European allies with reinforcement, but he didn't want to risk the lives of his white soldiers. Historical records say the Harlem Hellfighters spent more time on the front lines than any other American soldiers during the First World War. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Pvt. Henry Johnson, who spoke out against racism at the time, the Medal of Honor.

Dr. Louis Tompkins Wright, whose parents were former slaves, graduated from Harvard University School of Medicine in 1917. In France during World War I, Wright served as a doctor in the Army, injecting soldiers with the smallpox vaccine. When he returned to the U.S., he became the first black physician at Harlem Hospital.

Cpl. Freddie Stowers died fighting for France in 1918. He led his company into a successful battle against Germany, but he died during the attack. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush posthumously awarded Stowers the Medal of Honor.

In the 1920s, officials in the military didn't believe Black servicemen were intelligent enough to fly an airplane, although they had already done so: Eugene Bullard, the first Black military pilot, flew for France during World War I. In 1941, as the U.S. entered World War II, the U.S. War Department created a division of Black pilots to train at Tuskegee University in Alabama. More than 30 Tuskegee Airmen made up the 99th Fighter Squadron.

Maj. Della H. Raney, who retired in 1978, was the first Black chief nurse in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II. At the time, black nurses were only allowed to tend to Black servicemen. Raney served as chief nurse over the Black nurses at the Tuskegee Army Airfield in Alabama. Because of segregation quotas, just 479 of the 50,000 nurses at the end of the war were Black.

The Pittsburgh Courier—the most widely read Black newspaper at the time—launched the “Double V” campaign (V for victory) in 1942. The paper wanted to make a point about defeating fascism during World War II as well as racism in America, which some say inspired Nazi practices. The New York Amsterdam News wrote that Hitler was “taking a leaf from United States Jim Crow practices.”

In 1941, the Army established a Black armor unit—the 78th Tank Battalion, later 758th—that trained at Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was the first of three battalions that made up the 5th Tank Group, which consisted of enlisted Black men but led by white officers. When the soldiers returned from fighting in World War II, they still faced discrimination in the U.S.

Howard P. Perry became the first Black Marine, serving as a private from 1942 to 1944. While he was training, he and other Black recruits couldn't enter the main camp unless a white escort was with them. By 1947, the Marines became more inclusive, stating “that all men be thoroughly indoctrinated on the principle of the equality of rights and privileges of all marines, and that they should be made to understand that it is their duty to set an example in conduct and deportment, and assist the incoming negro marines.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune pushed for the creation of the Women's Army Corps (WAC), which President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law in 1943. It gave women full military benefits. The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion—whose job was to go through mail in the European Theater of Operations—in 1945 was the only all-Black female unit deployed in WWII.


1 Abolished The Death Penalty For Deserters


Louis XVI never could have guess how ironic the fact that he abolished the death penalty (for army deserters) would become when he was guillotined decades later during the Revolution.

In keeping with his liberal style, Louis gave unusual leniency times to army deserters and took away the threat of capital punishment. This was part of a push to instill some initiative in his soldiers rather than having an army of robots. This decision may have been influenced by the important play Le deserteur (The Deserter), written in 1769 by Michel-Jean Sedaine.


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