Teacher's Guide for FOOTSTEPS Blacks and the MilitarySeptember 2003
Teacher Guide prepared by: Leslie Anderson Morales.
The 1st South Carolina Volunteers were the first African-American regular Army regiment organized in the Civil war. They were "contrabands of war." The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, established in 1863, consisted mostly of free blacks.
What did these groups of soldiers have in common? What differences set them apart?During the Civil War, thousands of free black men joined the Army and Navy. Some even returned from freedom in Canada to enlist. Black soldiers were paid less money than whites. They frequently worked as laborers. When they were captured, African-Americans were not accorded the same protection as other prisoners of war. They were shot, hung, or burned alive.
What pre-war experiences would they have shared? How would their lives have been different?
Imagine that members of each unit are attending a Civil War veteran's reunion. Write a short conversation between two men.
Would you have chosen to live in relative freedom or to risk your life in the military? Why? The Buffalo Soldiers did grueling work in a harsh climate. Their equipment, horses, and food were of poorer quality than those of other units. They became famous for their military engagement with the Cheyenne Indians.
Do you think the Buffalo Soldiers related to the Cheyenne as an oppressed group of "people of color"? What do you think the Cheyenne thought of the Buffalo Soldiers?Segregation and discrimination were widely practiced in the military. African-Americans participated in all-black units - often under white officers. Certain positions were off-limits to African-Americans.
Imagine that you are a Buffalo Soldier hard at work on the frontier. Write a letter to a loved one describing your experience and your plans for the future.
What are the advantages and drawbacks of this situation?Black women have been near the front battle lines since the 1700s - sometimes, they pretended to be men. By the 1900s, Susie King Taylor and many other women worked as laundresses, teachers, and nurses to support the troops. By the end of the 20th century, women were allowed to join in combat.
What did the United States government gain by permitting segregation and discrimination in the armed services?
Why do women join the military?A military career can be a stepping stone to a successful career in politics, especially elected office. Several United States presidents have served in the military.
What obstacles do they face?
Why has there not been an all-female combat unit under the command of a male officer?
What is it about participating in the armed forces that might account for this?African-Americans have participated in every American military conflict since this country's beginnings. It wasn't until 1948 that military segregation ended with Executive Order 9981.
Which personality traits and experiences would help make a successful transition possible?
Which personality traits and experiences might make it difficult to make this transition?
What was President Truman's motivation?Do you agree that black participation in the armed forces has benefited American society? Support your position and give examples.
What actions had the African-American community taken to end segregation in the military?
Why did many military commanders feel the way they did?
Military service is often a family tradition. Why do you think this is the case?