THE CONTRIBUTIONS AND CHALLENGES OF AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE US MILITARY
The African American Historical Society of Rockland County offered two free programs on February 2015 (February 25th at 10AM and 7PM and with a snow date) in collaboration with the Rockland Community College African American History Month Committee and the RCC Performing Arts Department. The program entitled: “I, Too, Sing America: The Contributions and Challenges of African Americans in the US Military.”
This project was designed especially for school children to help them understand the overwhelming love African Americans have always had for this country—despite discrimination and inequities; the willingness, commitment and desire to serve this great nation, and the groundbreaking and/or heroic actions that have helped keep America strong.
The program was also presented for the community-at-large, will showcase commentaries about African Americans, commentaries that have been filmed especially for these programs. Featured interviewees will include General Colin Powell, Mr. Sanders Matthews, a widely known Buffalo Soldier, Dr. Olivia Hooker, the first African American female to be admitted to the US Coast Guards, Dr. Roscoe Brown, acclaimed Tuskegee Airman, NY Senator Bill Larkin, Commander of an all Black unit as well as other individuals important to this theme. This presentation was not designed to recruit individuals for the military; it did not glorify warfare or conflict. It was very simply designed to inform about and acknowledge the contributions and history of African Americans in the US military. In addition to the perspectives of a variety of key individuals, the program presented some of the music sung by Black enlisted personnel during different time periods, a creative dramatic sequence, dance that illustrates the rich history presented, a narrative that provides context, a video collage of Blacks in the military, excerpts from relevant films, and a specially created photo exhibit.
I, TOO, SING AMERICA! EXHIBIT INTRODUCTION
The African American Historical Society, the Rockland Community College Performing Arts Department and the RCC African American History Month Committee proudly present the photo exhibit: I Too Sing America: The Contributions and Challenges of African Americans in the US Military, Part I: American Revolution – World War II.
This exhibit features photos from the archives of the Nyack Library, the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress and the National Archives and revisits the extraordinary history of African American people and their service the United States of America through the military. Our interest in this history is to highlight national and local individuals from the American Revolution to World War II. This is not a celebration of armed conflict, but is a salute to the men and women who have served their country, especially throughout periods when they were not treated with respect or human dignity.
We seek to bring to the forefront such issues as the sacrifices of the people of African descent during the American Revolution, the fight for freedom during the Civil War and the double victory movement, which sought “a dual victory over enemies to the country and enemies—opposed to equality, justice, and democracy—at home” during WWII. A particular focus is also placed on our local history where we highlight local civil war veterans, and the experiences of men and women at Rockland County’s Camp Shanks during World War II.
These photographs and the history highlighted in the exhibit give but a glimpse of the rich and proud legacy of African Americans in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Jamila Brathwaite, Curator
Wylene Branton Wood, Researcher and Coordinator: I Too Sing America
Dr. Travis Jackson, Researcher/Writer
This exhibit is funded by grants from the Town of Ramapo and from the Arts Council of Rockland through the DEC program of the New York State Council of the Arts.