Being casualties of history does not make acts less heroic or service less selfless. Wounded Warrior Project® closes this Black History Month by saluting just a few of the numerous outstanding accomplishments by African-Americans in our nation’s military.
First Casualty of the American Revolution: Crispus Attucks’ destiny would become bigger than his status as a slave. As the American Revolution’s first casualty, he was slain during the Boston Massacre. A monument to Crispus Attucks and his heroism – unveiled in 1888 – still stands in the Boston Common. Attucks reminds us that though many African-Americans performed acts of valor behind the scenes, they have fought in every American conflict, domestic and global.
First Black Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff: Four-star General Colin L. Powell’s near-40-year Army career was capped in an illustrious way: his ascension to the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-1993), the first and only black service member to hold the position. Before taking on the role as chairman, Powell was President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser, then Secretary of State during George W. Bush’s administration. Powell’s accolades include a Purple Heart, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, and two Presidential Medals of Freedom.
First Black Minuteman: Lemuel Haynes distinguished himself with tenacity and determination during his service as a minuteman during America’s Revolutionary War, when he fought at the Battle of Lexington in April of 1775. Haynes signed up for the war after indentured servitude. In his post-military career, he became an ordained Protestant minister.
U.S. Military's First Black Flag Officer: A series of “temporary” positions for Benjamin O. Davis – major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel – meant his rise through the ranks of the military was much slower than it should have been. Finally, in October of 1940, Davis became the American armed forces’ first black flag officer when President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted him to brigadier general. In addition to his distinction as the military’s first black flag officer, Davis served with the famed Buffalo Soldiers.
U.S. Military’s First Black General: Before he was promoted to general, Pensacola native Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. was a member of the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the nation’s first all-black pilot unit. In 1975, James received his fourth star in the United States Air Force to become a full general. At his promotion, James’ insight on his military career was succinct but heartfelt: "I've fought in three wars, and three more wouldn't be too many to defend my country. I love America, and as she has weaknesses or ills, I'll hold her hand."