Throughout America’s history, black men and women put their lives on the line in service to the United States.
These brave individuals enlisted in times when they were seen as second-class citizens and forced into segregation.
Here’s a look at some firsts in African American wartime history.
The “Fighting Eighth” refers to the Chicago-based Eighth Infantry which was the nation’s first all-black National Guard unit.
Their service began around the turn of the century during the beginning of the Spanish-American War. After being excluded from the war effort, many prominent members of the community including lawyers, doctors, and carpenters fought and won the chance to serve.
Afterwards, they were welcomed back home like heroes -- complete with a parade.
Another first includes the historic Tuskegee Airmen.
They were the first African American military aviators in the United States armed forces.
They were deployed during World War II while the nation was still rooted in Jim Crow laws.
Before these gentlemen went to battle, African Americans were prohibited from flying in the military, but as the war became imminent, training was offered to the men at an airbase in Tuskegee, Alabama.
Last but certainly not least are the incredible women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion or simply known as “Six Triple Eight.”
They were a group of roughy 700 African American women who, not only volunteered, but demanded to serve in the Army.
They were sent overseas in Europe during World War II and charged with the task of clearing and redirecting a massive mail backlog.
They served in cold, dark, rat-infested conditions, sorting through tens of thousands pieces of mail.
These trailblazers serve as inspirations to all Americans.
We thank all of these “firsts” not only for their sacrifice but for paving a path for countless others.