By: Dr. John E. Warren
Veterans Day was created as “Armistice Day” on November 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. It became a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1938. As we honor the memory of those who served in this great conflict, separately and apart from other occasions honoring our War service members, let us not forget the special struggles of Black Veterans, especially during the years following World War I.
We have seen from history that African Americans who fought for the freedom of others on distant shores, came home to disenfranchisement, segregation, and subhuman treatment on every front where they should have received respect and equality for having served. We have seen from a historical point that a Black soldier named Charles Lewis, recently discharged from the military, was lynched in uniform in Hichman, Kentucky; in 1944, four Black soldiers after a white store owner claimed they tried to take over his place; in 1947, we repeat how Joe Nathan Roberts, a Black Navy Veteran, studying at Temple University on the G.I. Bill was abducted and shot because he wouldn’t say “Sir” to white men.
What is so important about these stories today is that if “Critical Race Theory” is allowed to be implemented on the scale white legislatures and school boards are trying to do, to sanitize all discussion of America’s racist past, these stories will be lost along with the racist history they represent. Let us not forget that we have over 99 African American servicemen who earned and received the Medal of Honor in battle, fighting, and in some cases dying for a country who would only honor them when the flag was draped over their coffins and taps played at their graveside.
It is up to us to remember and honor our own, in spite of what this nation does or how it seeks to change or erase the history that we bled and sacrificed to build. Yes, this Veterans Day, let’s remember our own; and not by running out to catch the latest sales. How about reflecting on how we can individually build on what they left? Things like registering to vote, spending money with those who support us, demanding respect for ourselves and our elders, and remembering that we are still “Black” to America whether we are rich, poor, educated, homeless, or ignorant.
We must honor ourselves before we can demand that others do so.