Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights

By Christine Knauer | Go to book overview

Epilogue

Today, sixty years after the end of the Korean War in 1953, military integration has become a reality. African Americans can be found in all positions and ranks of the military.1 In 1989, Colin Powell became the first black man to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. When he joined the armed forces in 1958, five years after the stalemate in Korea, the military, according to his memoir, “was the only place … where a young black kid could now dream; the only place, where the color of your guts and the color of your blood was more important than the color of your skin.”2 The Korean War Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., manifests in granite and stainless steel this alleged fulfillment of racial diversity and equality in the military. With it, the Korean War shed its image as a “bitter war that Americans forgot,”3 and was turned into the victorious beginning of the end of the Cold War. Moreover, the war was constructed as a success story not only with regard to the Cold War, but for race relations in the United States as well.4

Even though the memorial’s design represents, in the words of art historian Kirk Savage, “no victory party,” it displays America’s (allegedly) successful acceptance of diversity.5 At the memorial’s dedication celebration in July 1995, President Bill Clinton stated, “In steel and granite, in water and earth, the creators of this memorial have brought to life the courage and sacrifice of those who served in all branches of the Armed Forces from every racial and ethnic group and background in America. They represent, once more, the enduring American truth: From many we are one.”6 The memorial affirmed the “the idealized self-image of a multiethnic, multiracial democracy, hospitable to difference but united by a common sense of national belonging.”7At the opening of the nationwide anniversary celebrations in June 2000, President Clinton repeated this thought when he noted,

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Let Us Fight as Free Men: Black Soldiers and Civil Rights
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Fighting for Respect 13
  • Chapter 2 - Coming Home 33
  • Chapter 3 - Stepping Up the Fight 55
  • Chapter 4 - Mass Civil Disobedience 82
  • Chapter 5 - Truman’s Order 112
  • Chapter 6 - A Country They Never Knew 130
  • Chapter 7 - Black Men at War 163
  • Chapter 8 - A Mixed Army 195
  • Epilogue 224
  • Abbreviations and Acronyms 231
  • Notes 235
  • Index 329
  • Acknowledgments 339
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