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Chapter 6 Overview

African Americans in the Military

African Americans in the Military

Uncle Sam Says, Josh White

Airplanes flying ‘cross the land and sea,
Everybody flying but a Negro like me.
Uncle Sam says, “Your place is on the ground,
When I fly my airplanes, don’t want no Negro ’round.”

The same thing for the Navy, when ships go to sea,
All they got is a mess boy’s job for me.
Uncle Sam says, “Keep on your apron, son,
You know I ain’t gonna let you shoot my big Navy gun.”

Got my long government letter, my time to go,
When I got to the Army found the same old Jim Crow.
Uncle Sam says, “Two camps for black and white,”
But when trouble starts, we’ll all be in that same big fight.

If you ask me, I think democracy is fine,
I mean democracy without the color line.
Uncle Sam says, “We’ll live the American way,”
Let’s get together and kill Jim Crow today.

“Blacks are mentally inferior, by nature subservient, and cowards in the face of danger. They are therefore unfit for combat.” – 1925 U.S. Army War College Study

Fighting for DemocracyThe attitude expressed above was the prevailing thought in America regarding military service.

In every war that America has ever participated in African Americans participated and served with honor and distinction despite the treatment they received in segregated branches of the military. When the call for service when out, they answered.

Many felt that if they showed themselves strong, brave and capable, that it would lead to better treatment at home and end Jim Crow discrimination.


During World I almost 3 million African Americans volunteered for service, but only ___ were allowed to serve. Those allowed to serve, for the most part, were relegated to tasks that did not allow them to “prove” themselves as men and women of honor.

When WWII started, things were unchanged in regards of how African Americans were trained and treated. They were often trained in poorly constructed facilities, the food in their Mess Halls was of poor quality, and the training resources were inferior. As the war continued, African Americans fought for victory at home and abroad as “Double V Day” became the battle cry for those at home as well as those in the military.

Acceptance of African Americans started to change as African Americans were given an opportunity to train as pilots as members of the Army Air Corp. The training was provided at Tuskegee, Alabama. There was still doubt as to whether African American had the mentally ability to fly. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt changed the minds of many by traveling to Tuskegee on March 25, 1941, flying over the area with C. Alfred “Chief” Anderson. The rest is truly history!

Chapter 6 overview from The Future Emerges from the Past, Celebrating 200 Years of Alabama African American History & Culture.