Black New Yorkers have a proud history of military service to the state and nation. For almost our entire history, New York has played a central role in the conflicts our country has been engaged in. Either as the home of the soldiers who fought, the manufacturer of the equipment needed or the leaders who guided our country, black New Yorkers have played an instrumental role. From the Revolutionary War to our current actions across the globe, black men and women have been proud to put on the uniform of one of the five branches of the military and fight for the cause of freedom, even when that very freedom was being denied to them.
The courage of those who have fought since the Civil War has helped advance civil rights for millions and helped make our society a more just one. Black Civil War veterans became political leaders, teachers, lawyers and activists whose service in the military opened up opportunities and made their case for equality even more compelling. Tuskegee pilots and black female officers in the Navy highlighted the disparity between the roles black men and women were limited to in civilian life and what they could accomplish if given the chance in the military. Black generals who helped guide our nation during a war helped pave the way for the nation’s first black commander-in-chief. Therefore, we honor the military history of black New Yorkers not just for the sacrifices they made in defense of this nation but also because those sacrifices helped America become a place worthy of the sacrifice every person in uniform has made.