Double Victory

The African American Military Experience

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Double Victory: The African American Military Experience conveys a sense of appreciation and respect for the military service of African Americans from the American Revolution to the current War on Terror. It establishes an understanding that the African American military experience shapes opportunities for the greater community and has profoundly shaped the nation.

Visitors will be amazed by the depth of military service and loyalty to the United States from the inception of the nation to today. In choosing to serve in the military, African Americans sought to have their service understood by the nation as a demand for liberty and citizenship. African American men and women who engaged in the military made their service useful not only for the good of their country, but to benefit both their personal lives and their community.

Double Victory broadly organizes African American military experiences into three main clusters:

  • Struggle for Freedom - American Revolution, War of 1812 (which will include the Seminole Wars and Mexican American War) and American Civil War
  • A Segregated Military - Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II
  • Stirrings of Change to a Colorblind Military - Korean War, Vietnam War and the Post-Vietnam era which will focus on the current War on Terror
Medal of Honor bestowed on Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton, 1952

Medal of Honor bestowed on Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton, 1952
Gift of Ray R. and Patricia A.D. Charlton in memory of Cornelius H. Charlton, 2013.165.1.1ab-.3.

Exhibition Experience

Gallery Entrance/“Double V”

Upon entering the gallery visitors are immediately drawn to the “Double V” apex. Visitors will see the 1942 “Double V” emblem, an excerpt from the 1948 Executive Order (EO) 9981 and an artifact portrait of World War I Croix de Guerre recipient Lawrence McVey in uniform. Each side of the “Double V” apex has five large images and large-print quotations. The images, depicting war and Homefront, include: the 54th Massachusetts storming Battery Wagner during the American Civil War, the NAACP silent parade during World War I, the 92nd Infantry Division during the Po Valley Campaign in Italy during World War II, and Vietnam War era protesters carrying picket signs. The quotations speak to patriotism and poignancy.

Wall of Service

The Wall of Service is a powerful introduction for visitors to read before beginning their experience. The military enlisted oath enlightens visitors to the power of service. Images of the people who served accompany the oath. Names of battles, events, activities, etc. relative to African Americans and the military are highlighted in a monumental style. The large 9th United States Volunteers Regimental flag, centered between a quotation by General Colin Powell and another by Frederick Douglass, dominate the Wall of Service.

Struggle for Freedom

From the American Revolution through the American Civil War, African Americans participated in every major war, beginning a ninety-five year period of struggle and military service to the nation that culminated in “freedom.” The struggle began as early as 1770, when Crispus Attucks became one of the first Americans to die in the Boston Massacre and continued to 1865 when the 13th Amendment was ratified. This cluster begins by focusing on the more than 5,000 African Americans (free, enslaved, and indentured) who served in the colonial forces. The service of African Americans during the War of 1812, Seminole Wars, and the Mexican American War are also evidence of the continued struggle for freedom.

A Segregated Military

The end of the Civil War brought freedom to African Americans but not equality nor integration. Since the Indian Wars began in 1866 to the end of World War II in 1945, hundreds of thousands of African Americans continued to serve in a segregated military. While their service will be interpreted through arresting artifacts, the gallery will also interpret the social, political, economic, and cultural contexts relative to African Americans such as the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson “Separate but Equal ruling,” the 1906 Brownsville riots in Texas, and the 1941 Executive Order 8802 catapulting African American women into the government workforce.

Stirrings of Change to a Colorblind Military

This section explores the question, has the military become a colorblind institution? In 1948, Executive Order 9981 was signed, which integrated the military on paper. The social and political impacts of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement are also interpreted, and offer visitors an opportunity to understand the complexities and nuances of African American military service in a rapidly changing America.

Medal of Honor Lens

The Medal of Honor Lens addresses the Medals of Honor awarded to African Americans and interprets what it means to be a Medal of Honor recipient, what is life after the Medal of Honor, and issues of racial biasness in awarding the Medal of Honor. The locations of African American Medal of Honor recipients buried in Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) are offered so visitors can visit the cemetery.