Another Black History Month comes to a close. During the Month, like many other Februaries since this Month was declared by the black student union at Kent State University in 1970, we have had a steady diet, predictably, of the good works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Every "movement" has to have a hero, and for those chronicling the achievements of blacks in the USA, Dr. King is the obvious choice.
There's just one problem:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr didn't give blacks the biggest push towards equality, the US Army did, led by GEN. Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the late stages of WW2 in Europe, US Army units had a severe problem replacing soldiers taken out of action by battle casualties. Eisenhower, the CIC in Europe, had a surplus of black troops, which were, up until then, segregated in certain units, mostly construction/engineering battalions and logistics units. There were no blacks in front-line combat outfits, the Tuskeegee Airmen being a notable exception (a pet project of FLOTUS Eleanor Roosevelt at the time). In 1944, Eisenhower ordered the integration of the entire Army, including front-line units. In 1948, President Truman issued an Executive Order to formally integrate the military, but it was the press of casualty replacement again, in the Korean War, that drove the integration to the reality we find it at today. As time went on in the Fifties, senior black NCOs began leaving the Army, and they were snapped up by business and industry.
That was the start of racial integration in the USA, folks. You won't see it discussed on "sound-bite" TV, it's much easier for TV producers to slap up a vignette of Dr. King, and his good works led to many such vignettes, but the US military led the way to break the color barriers in this Nation. Every thing that followed was basic mop-up.