In the past few years, we have seen a rise in interest around Black military history and culture. Black veterans have been fighting for their country since the Civil War. They went to war. They came home, but weren't considered citizens and couldn't even vote.
My father's older brother William Bunton Jr. was a casualty in Germany while serving in the military during World War II. He volunteered to serve. As my mother Ragina Bunton tells the story, he begged his parents to go. In combat, he was blown up by a tank. Prior to the officers coming to tell his parents the news, my grandmother Gillie Ann Bunton had a premonition of his death. Unfortunately, she was right. Since my father, Irving Bunton was their only remaining son, he was never drafted as that was the government policy not to send the last.
The tragic outcome of this story and others are why many are hesitant to sign-up for the military. And yet, there are those who boldly go. If they return, they've experienced the gamut: victory, defeat, pain, struggle all in spite of horrific unspeakable circumstances. Whether or not we understand the reasons they decided to go, it is important to document and share these stories of valor and strife to learn from them.
Our ancestors fought on both sides of World War I, but when it came time to receive benefits for their service—including access to education and land ownership—most Black soldiers were ignored or denied these opportunities due to discrimination against them based on the psychological insecurities of racism.
Black soldiers fought to free the country, and then came home to find out that they couldn't vote. While some states allowed African Americans to vote, others did not. This meant Black veterans who had served the Union (and been allowed to vote in Northern states) were unable to exercise this right in Southern states. In fact, many ex-soldiers who had risked their lives for America were even denied citizenship rights!
This denial of citizenship continued throughout World War II and beyond—serving as another example of how our country's values are hypocritical at best and racist at worst.
Many Black veterans were never fully recognized for their service in the military. They served in the same conditions as other American soldiers, but did not come home identified as heroes. Instead, they often faced discrimination both during and after their service.
This was especially true when they returned home to communities where they were treated as second-class citizens. Once again, these Black Americans had to fight for acceptance. While progress has been made over the last century, there is still work to be done.
Though government policies and practices were against them, our brave ancestors didn't give up; instead, they continued fighting for justice and equality. Some traveled across the country on foot or on horseback all the way from Kansas City to Washington, DC—understanding that if they didn't make their voices heard then no on would know their story.
The Military Earned Them Citizenship.
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My name is Nzingha Nommo, I've been in business since 1993 as owner/Founder of Afriware Books, Co. Thought I could share a few things I learned from my journey. I also dabble in veganism, natural hair and other odds and ends. Learn more on our About Us page.