To be a leader means you’re always prepared for the inevitable battle that is to come. Every Black History Month, we learn about the leaders who weren’t afraid to march forward in fighting the injustices against Black people in this country.
John Lewis, the last living speaker from the March on Washington, didn’t back down when he was brutally beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.
Despite the consequences, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus.
Mamie Till made a conscious decision to display her son Emmett Till’s mercilessly beaten body to the world in protest of mass lynching.
Author’s son with Congressman John Lewis.
While we rightfully give these leaders their due, we often forget about the Black soldiers who have served this country in the military. As a veteran of the United States Army, I am honored that The Association for the Study of African Life and History (ASALH) has selected African-Americans in Times of War as this year’s theme for Black History Month.
I initially joined the military as a means to receiving an education, but through service, I learned life lessons that would be hard to gain in any other sector like loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
As an educator, I would like to challenge educators to use this theme to study other champions of Black history who have served in the military such as the Tuskegee Airmen, the Buffalo Soldiers, Colonel Charles Young (first African-American colonel in the U.S. Army), Colin Powell (first African-American chairman of the joint chiefs of staff), Lt. Gen. Nadja West (first Black female lieutenant general), Maj. Gen. Fred A. Gorden (first Black commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point), and many more.
When we choose to only expose our students to just a few people, we limit their scope of history. This month, and this school year, please don’t limit your students’ exposure to Black history and teach them about African-Americans in Times of War. Because, as Nelson Mandela said, education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.