"The 2018 theme, 'African Americans in Times of War,' commemorates the centennial of the end of the First World War in 1918,
and explores the complex meanings and implications of this international struggle and its aftermath"
(Read the full summary)
Association for the Study of African American Life & History

Notable Groups and Figures


Crispus Attucks (1723-1770)
A widely lauded American hero, Crispus Attucks was the first person killed during the Boston Massacre and, in many historians eyes, the first American casualty of the Revolutionary War (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.).

Robert Smalls (1839-1915)
During the Civil War, Robert Smalls, a slave on the Confederate warship CSS Planter, commandeered the ship and sailed it to Union lines. He later became a U.S. Representative for South Carolina. (Lineberry, 2017).

Benjamin O. Davis Sr. (1877-1970)
Davis was the first African American general in the United States Army, retiring in 1948 after 50 years of military service (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.).

Charity Adams Earley (1918-2002)
Earley was the first African American officer in the Women's Auxillary Army Corps in World War II, leading the first battalion of African American women to serve overseas (Goldstein, 2002).

Colin Powell (1937- )
Four-star general Colin Powell was the first African American secretary of state as well as the first African American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d.).

Michelle Howard (1960- )
Howard was the first four-star Admiral in the United States Navy, and the first African American woman to captain a U.S. naval ship (Rafferty, n.d.).


1st Rhode Island Regiment
During the Revolutionary War, Rhode Island passed a law promising freedom to any slave who enlisted in the Union army. Though the law was later repealed, more than 100 now-former slaves enlisted, all of whom were placed in the 1st Rhode Island Regiment. Of the 225 men in the regiment, 140 were African Americans (Partin, n.d.).

54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment
The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment was "the first military unit consisting of black soldiers to be raised in the North during the Civil War." They are most remembered for their participation in the assault on Fort Wagner in 1863 (Massachusetts Historical Society, n.d.).

Buffalo Soldiers
Following the conclusion of the American Civil War, recruitment began for the 9th and 10th Cavalry units. These two units, comprised entirely of African Americans, became world-renowned for their exploits in the American West (Hill, 1998).

Montford Point Marines
Montford Point Marines TrainingIn World War II, African Americans served in the United States Marines for the first time. Recruits were trained in Montford Point, North Carolina from 1942 to 1949 (Butler, n.d.). The image to the right, from Wikimedia Commons, shows Cpl. Arvin L. Ghazlo demonstrating a technique to disarm the enemy (Lance Cpl. Paul Peterson, 1942). 

Tuskegee Airmen
The Tuskegee Airmen is a name given to a large group of African American military pilots and engineers from the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the 332nd Fighter Group, and the 477th Bombardment Group who fought in World War II, all trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field (Tuskegee Airmen National Historical Museum, 2015).

Historical Resources


  • Center for Minority Veterans (CMV)
    Division of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • National Association for Black Veterans
    The National Association for Black Veterans, Inc. (NABVETS) provides "strategic advocacy on behalf of its membership with Congress and the federal administration; state administrations; county and city legislators; and other agencies and organizations."