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News > Scott observes African-American History Month
Scott AFB observes African-American History Month

Posted 1/26/2011   Updated 1/27/2011 Email story   Print story


by Tech. Sgt. Laronda Harris
African-American heritage Committee

1/26/2011 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill.  -- Each February, the country recognizes African-American History Month to highlight the struggles and triumphs of millions of American citizens during some of the most devastating obstacles in the nation's history.

In celebration of African-American History Month, Scott Air Force Base's African-American Heritage Month committee has chosen the theme, "African-Americans and the Civil War".
Since the beginning of our history, African-Americans have played pivotal roles in the development and success of this great nation.

African-Americans served in various roles during difficult times of conflict, specifically the Civil War. When Union soldiers entered the South, thousands of African-Americans fled from their owners to Union camps. The Union officers did not immediately receive an official order on how to manage this addition to their numbers. Some sought to return the slaves to their owners, but others kept the African-Americans within their lines and dubbed them "contraband of war." Many "contraband" greatly aided the war effort with their labor. Approximately 180,000 African-Americans comprising 163 units served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and many more African-Americans served in the Union Navy.

Both free African-Americans and runaway slaves joined the fight.

On July 17, 1862, Congress passed two acts allowing the enlistment of African-Americans, but official enrollment occurred only after the September 1862 issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. In general, white soldiers and officers believed that African-American men lacked the courage to fight and fight well.

In October 1862, African-American soldiers of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers silenced their critics by repulsing attacking Confederates at the battle of Island Mound, Missouri.

By August 1863, 14 African-American regiments were in the field and ready for service. At the battle of Port Hudson Louisiana, May 27, 1863, the African-American soldiers bravely advanced over open ground in the face of deadly artillery fire. Although the attack failed, the African-American soldiers proved their capability to withstand the heat of battle.
The Library of Congress' collection records the new steps toward freedom on the part of the African-American community, especially in the areas of employment, education and politics.

During the month, the committee will highlight some of these achievements through a variety of events around the base.

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