Military History

This page will provide links to media and information chronicling The African American Experience in the Armed Forces.  Check back often for updates.

African Americans in the Navy

Naval History

navhistlargeDuring the Civil War and until the late 1800s, thousands of African Americans had the opportunity to serve in the Navy. By the turn of the century, their numbers dwindled as most were slowly eliminated. Those who did serve were limited to menial duties. However, as the Navy became more integrated there were more opportunities in a variety of positions. When Carl Brashear entered the Navy in the late 1940s, he encountered racism and began his service in the Steward Branch. With hard work and determination, he was able to turn his experience in the Navy into one that is a success story.

During the Civil War, a substantial number of escaped slaves and other blacks had the opportunity to serve in the Navy. However, when the Navy changed from wooden sailing vessels to steam-powered steel vessels, the recruitment of African Americans substantially decreased. The navy instead searched nationwide for conscripts, which increased its pool of potential recruits. As a result, blacks that did join the Navy were limited to the least desirable jobs. They worked in service positions waiting tables and serving white officers. Segregation was prevalent in working conditions, and in eating and sleeping areas.

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African-Americans and the U.S. Navy

African-Americans have served in the U.S. Navy since its beginnings. They have worked for the Navy as civilians and have provided it with important services from other walks of life. This website presents a broad selection of our images that relate to African-Americans and their relationships with the United States Navy. Read More.

Military history of African Americans

The 332nd Fighter Group attends a briefing in Italy in 1945.

The 332nd Fighter Group attends a briefing in Italy in 1945.

The military history of African Americans spans from the arrival of the first black slaves during the colonial history of the United States to the present day. There has been no war fought by or within the United States in which African Americans did not participate, including theRevolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, the World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, and the current wars Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other minor conflicts.

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