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 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.
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.
Journey Through the Exhibition
Double Victory Storylines
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.
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 exhibition also interprets 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.
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.