Black History is American History

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ethan Sherwood
  • 17th Training Wing Public Affairs

Black History Month is an annual, month-long celebration highlighting the achievements of African American and black individuals and their role in U.S. history.

It began in 1915, when a man named Carter G. Woodson established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. His goal was to change the world’s perception of African Americans and recognize their contribution to American society and culture. 

His efforts are rewarded today by the mass celebration of Black History Month. The stories of amazing people are told today, and they receive the recognition they deserve for their numerous valuable contributions to society. 

Goodfellow Air Force Base celebrated these achievements at the event center on February 20. Guest speaker, retired Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins, Jr. spoke on the importance of African American and black individuals in our military. Others talked about the importance of black history as well and the roles they played in society. 

“A lot of the people in Black History Month have invented a lot of things we see today such as the traffic light or the gas mask,” said Senior Airman Justin Williams, 17th Training Wing executive support staff. “We all know about Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, but what about the others? Garret Morgan, Langston Hughes, George Washington Carver, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Thurgood Marshall, who was a part of the justice system. So, to learn about all these different people and black history, that they made a difference, is really important to me.” 

In the military, African Americans and black individuals have played a significant role, often going above and beyond the call of duty. 

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Hazel Johnson-Brown, the first-ever black female general in the United States Army and the first black Chief of the United States Army Nurse Corps, took charge of 7,000 nurses in the Army Nurse Corps. She received many awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Army Nurse of the Year twice, Meritorious Service Medal, and Army Commendation Medal with Oak Cluster. She was described as leading with dignity and style as a notoriously good leader.

U.S. Marine Corps Captain Frederick C. Branch, the first-ever African American officer in the Marine Corps, was initially denied when he applied for Officer Candidate School. His performance, while serving with a supply unit in the Pacific, earned him the recommendation of his commanding officer. While attending training at Purdue University under the Navy V-12 program, he was the only African American in a class of 250. Branch made the dean’s list and commissioned as a second lieutenant on November 10, 1945.

U.S. Navy Master Chief Petty Officer Carl Maxie Brashear, a master diver, experienced racism while attended diving school and received death threats from his classmates. Despite this he became extremely proficient in his field. He recovered 16,000 rounds of ammunition that fell off a barge, recovered dead bodies from airplanes, and escorted the presidential yacht the “Barbara Anne” to Rhode Island. While on the yacht, he met President Eisenhower, who presented him with a small knife that said “To Carl M. Brashear. From Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1957. Many, many thanks.” The film “Man of Honor” was based on this amazing man’s life. 

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Nelson Barnes was the first African American Senior Enlisted Advisor in any military branch of the United States. He was also the first African American Chief Master Sgt. in the Air Force and was vital in bringing many African American related issues to the attention of senior military leaders. He flew for nine years in a variety of aircraft serving in Korea, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Vietnam. 

The valuable contributions of African Americans and black individuals cannot be denied. Their profound impact on America continues in a myriad of areas, including history, education, entertainment, literature, science, sports, politics, culture, and the military.