Clifford Alexander Jr.

Cliffors Alexander Jr. first African American Secretary of the Army

Clifford Alexander Jr. was born and raised in Harlem prior to his education at Fieldstone Ethical Culture, Harvard (1955) and Yale Law School (1958). Early influences were his mother and father. Edith served as the Deputy Director then Executive Director of the Mayor’s Committee on Unity under NYC Mayor LaGuardia. The Mayor’s Committee on Unity was the precursor to the NYC Commission on Human Rights and fought discrimination in employment practices, public accommodations, and housing.

His father was one of several Harlem community leaders who founded the Carver Bank in response to discriminatory lending practices and worked to integrate the Riverton Apartments while serving as its manager. Alexander joined the National Guard after Law School and began working as an attorney in New York. He was asked to come to Washington D.C. in 1963 to join the staff of the National Security Council in the Kennedy administration.  Continue reading

Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls

(b. April 5, 1839, Beaufort, S.C., U.S.–d. Feb. 22, 1915, Beaufort), Negro slave who became a naval hero for the Union in the American Civil War (1861-65) and went on to serve as a congressman from South Carolina during Reconstruction (1865-77).

The son of plantation slaves, Smalls was taken by his master in 1851 to Charleston, S.C., where he worked as a hotel waiter, hack driver, and rigger. Impressed into the Confederate Navy at the outbreak of the war, he was forced to serve as wheelman aboard the armed frigate “Planter.” On May 13, 1862, he and 12 other slaves seized control of the ship in Charleston harbour and succeeded in turning it over to a Union naval squadron blockading the city. This exploit brought Smalls great fame throughout the North. He continued to serve as a pilot on the “Planter” and became the ship’s captain in 1863.  Continue reading

Bernice Gaines Hughes

During World War II, Fort Des Moines served as a training center for the Women’s Army Corps.

One of the accomplished graduates of that training course was Bernice Gaines Hughes, the first black woman to become a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Doris ‘Dorie’ Miller

Dorie Miller

Dorie Miller

Doris Miller, known as “Dorie” to shipmates and friends, was born in Waco, Texas, on 12 October 1919, to Henrietta and Conery Miller. He had three brothers, one of which served in the Army during World War II. While attending Moore High School in Waco, he was a fullback on the football team.

He worked on his father’s farm before enlisting in the U.S Navy as Mess Attendant, Third Class, at Dallas, Texas, on 16 September 1939, to travel, and earn money for his family. He later was commended by the Secretary of the Navy, was advanced to Mess Attendant, Second Class and First Class, and subsequently was promoted to Ship’s Cook, Third Class.

Following training at the Naval Training Station, Norfolk, Virginia, Miller was assigned to the ammunition ship USS Pyro (AE-1) where he served as a Mess Attendant, and on 2 January 1940 was transferred to USS West Virginia (BB-48), where he became the ship’s heavyweight boxing champion. In July of that year he had temporary duty aboard USS Nevada (BB-36) at Secondary Battery Gunnery School.  Continue reading

Milton L. Olive III

Milton L. Olive III

PFC Milton Olive III was only 18 at the time of his death in Vietnam, but his heroic acts were so great, that the City of Chicago has honored him in two ways. Chicago is home to Olive Park and Olive-Harvey College both named for this brave soldier.

PFC Olive belonged to the 3rd Platoon of Company B. As they moved through the Vietnam jungle to find the Viet Cong, Olive’s platoon was subject to heavy gunfire. Though pinned down temporarily, the unit retaliated by assaulting the Viet Cong positions.

While PFC Olive and four other soldiers were in pursuit, a grenade was thrown in their midst. PFC Olive saw the grenade, grabbed and put his body on it, absorbing the blast and saving the lives of the other soldiers in his platoon.

Upcoming Black History Posts
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  • Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • March On Washingtion – 1963
  • L Douglas Wilder
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