The Daily Heller: Equal Opportunities?

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Despite the fact that a disproportionate number of Black Americans were recruited and volunteered to fight and die in conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War, the armed services were not desegregated until Executive Order 9981. The injustice and hypocrisy of such a long history of racism formally continued until July 26, 1948, it was then that Harry S. Truman's order established the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces. Full integration of Black servicemen was not, however, established until 1950 for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, and not until 1953 for the U.S. Army.

Today, almost 40 percent of the Armed Forces are comprised of Black soldiers, airmen, Marines and sailors. People of Color command at the highest levels, but prior to World War II segregated Black troops were led by white officers, although some Black officers were commissioned, at least from the Civil War onward.

As these posters evidence, promises were made bestowing equal rights to equal justice. Often those promises were never kept.

Even the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Joe Lewis (bottom), left his life of stardom, "enlisted in the Army and plunged himself into the toil of service" and only reached the rank of staff sergeant (while other celebrities were commissioned as officers), putting on many bouts to lift the spirits of fighting men and women of all colors.