Did You Know? Black Women Played a Role In Every War Effort In U.S. History

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According to the Indiana-based Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum, African-American women have played a role in every war effort in the U.S.

Maj. Charity Adams (front, right) and Capt. Abbie Campbell reviewing the troops in England

It is very rare that you’ll find information written about African-American women’s roles in every war effort in U.S. history. Until recently, knowledge of their heroic contributions was severely limited, but that has changed since Indiana-based Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum unveiled pictures and information about the women.
They endured physical discomfort and personal criticism, while many of their contributions were unrecognized and unrewarded. They placed themselves in danger’s path – offering their abilities and strengths to preserve values and ensure freedom,” wrote S.A. Sheafer in the book “Women in America’s Wars.”
Inspired by the promise of freedom from slavery, some women courageously worked as spies during the Revolutionary War. Others, as narrated by former slave-turned-author Lucy ­Terry, disguised themselves as men and fought side by side with them against the British. In the Spanish-American War and World War I, black women served valiantly as nurses and in other support roles. A list of the women and their contribution(s) are listed below.

Harriet Tubman

Served as a Union spy , volunteer nurse, and armed scout. Because of her various contributions, she reportedly acquired the name “General Tubman” from soldiers.

Susan Taylor King

Another former slave, joined the all-black First South Carolina Volunteers unit as a nurse, and later started a school for children and soldiers.

Cathay Williams

After being freed from a Missouri plantation, Williams was pressed into service during the Civil War by Union forces. Williams signed up for service in November 1866, giving her name as William Cathay and passing as a man. Before falling ill and having her gender revealed, Williams served as a Buffalo Soldier with the 38th U.S. Infantry Regiment for two years — more than 80 years before women were allowed to officially enlist in the peacetime Army.

Maj. Charity Adams  

The first black officer of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) during World War II. Adams commanded the first all-black female unit, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. “Every single piece of mail that went to Europe passed through this postal battalion,” said filmmaker Frank Martin, whose 2010 documentary, “For Love of Liberty: The Story of America’s Black Patriots,” lauds the service of Maj. Adams’ 855-member battalion. Maj. Adams spent the last year of the war clearing backlogs of mail, first in Birmingham, England, and then Rouen, France.

Army Nurse Corps Maj. Marie Rogers

Maj. Rogers was awarded the Bronze Star by President Lyndon Johnson for distinguished service. In 1948, the dynamics of black women in the military changed when President Harry Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act, which permitted women to join the regular Army and later issued Executive Order 9981, which ended segregation in the military. Following Truman’s executive order, an increasing number of African-American women — volunteers, mostly nurses — served in Vietnam.

Diane Lindsay

Was the first black female nurse to receive the Soldier’s Medal of Heroism. She was later promoted to captain. Lindsay was of the 95th Evacuation Hospital.

Lt. Phoebe Jeter

Ordered her all-male platoon to fire a battery of Patriot missiles at incoming Iraqi Scud missiles, downing at least two of them. It was the first and only such feat by a female officer in the war.

U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Michele Howard

The first African-American woman to command a Navy combat ship, made news in 2009 when it was involved in the rescue of the merchant ship Maersk Alabama’s captain from Somali pirates.

It is clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military’s mission of defending the nation,” said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in January, when he lifted a ban preventing women from serving in combat. “They serve, they’re wounded and they die right next to each other. The time has come to recognize that reality.” Today, black women are well represented in the armed forces. An estimated 40% of the 35,000 women active in Operation Desert Storm were African-Americans.

Maria Lloyd (@WritingsByMaria) is the Business Manager for the Your Black World Network and Dr. Boyce Watkins. She is a graduate of Clark Atlanta University and an advocate of dismantling the prison industrial complex, increasing entrepreneurship, reforming education, and eradicating poverty. 

What's Your Thoughts

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  1. Tunie

    February 11, 2013 at 3:56 pm

    Love this month n site. It gives me the knowledge I love and question of the day at my school

  2. onmyway2012

    February 11, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Finally, black women acknowledged for their honorable service in the military. I’m proud as a black woman vet to of read this aspect of black history.

  3. Zandra Conway

    February 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    I’m proud that my Mother joined the Air Forces in 1954 – I was very proud of her and other African American dynamic women to serve America!


    February 11, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    Those women were On Fire!!!!!! Simply outstanding…..

  5. Makeda Norris

    February 12, 2013 at 8:09 am

    Vernice Armour was the first black woman to be a helicopter pilot in the US Marines. How did you miss her?

  6. Haile

    May 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    When you think about all that African people who were not wanted in the US Armed Forces did for America and that some Africans living in America, in their armed forces uniforms were lynched.During the last so called world War, they could not trust their American Europeans and they had to put American African Major Walker and his group to guard the so called white house. A US Army legion post is named in his honour.It make you wonder who are these people.Land of the free home of the brave.All men are created equal.Oh say can you see.

  7. Haile

    May 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    I know you do not want to hear this, but do not get me wrong, I am proud of our women and all that they did.Imagine though that they did not permit Harriet Tubman to vote and if a woman were to go in a line talking bout she was voting in full armed forces uniform you know what would have happened.Do not forget now that all men are created equal.


    May 13, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Deborah Gannette SAmpson was An African American Woman,who was the 1st “WOMAN” to enlist/join the U.S. Army. (The U S Continental Army)in 1780. She disguised herself as a man(Robert Shirliff). She was wounded twice before it was discovered that she was a female and was Honorably discharged. Benjamin Gannette a Black farmer was her husband and he received her pension. We must “STOP” racist history!

  9. Annie

    December 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Lindy Abbott please understand this fact African American history was abolished from the public meaning it took a long time to find some true authentic role models for our people. Yes not just African Americans all people march forward and toward a better way and day and I do appreciate that you support that change. However, everyone does not feel like you and I, therefore the lack of respect for those African American inventors,nurses,spies, ect. will continue to be denounce by posting this valuable information. Slaves were laborers okay with no pay and not allowed any education and no restitution by the way. The scrutiny goes on in the White House, around the tables of black and white middle class, and surely the rich share in that African Americans are lazy and stupid and I would never ever syndrome. I see the people as a strong seed in the land forever because of all those truths mention above the phenomenal ones did emerge through the emancipation proclamation but take note this is and was a fraction of our people. The still suffering and frighten ones lack the help and the respect of some of our own celebrities of today. I thank everyone regardless of color, gender, or religion that gives to the need of teaching, loving and most of all understanding what really happen here to the African American people enslaved by hate and then toppled by self condemnation. Today we bend that lie with the truth, we snap it with the courage to say we were there and we did our part regardless if you see the people as a machine or a human being. I know who else was there because it was their plan to build this young country and yes they did own it and much blood was shed by the founders of this country. God bless America as we all learn we are but a fraction in existence and people make up the world.

  10. lawyer

    August 11, 2014 at 2:26 am

    Wow, that’s what I was looking for, what a stuff! existing here
    at this weblog, thanks admin of this site.

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