We Honor Past and Present Black Women Serving in Our Military

We honor, the many Black women who serve or have served in the United States Military. Their ability to serve historically has been a difficult journey. Black women had to demand the right to serve as a military person because of her gender and race even while protecting the freedom and safety of others. Today, Black women serve and lead at every level of the military proving that women are not only capable of protecting the sovereignty of this nation, but they continue to play a huge part in our military’s success.

Black Women Faced Ongoing Gender and Racial Discrimination

Ending gender segregation in the military was a rocky road for all women, especially for Black women who also battled racial discrimination. Throughout American history only a few women served in the U.S. military until 1942 when White women were given a limited capacity to serve. However, it was not until the War Department mandated equal treatment of troops regardless of race that Black women were given the legal right to enlist in the military in any capacity. Once Black women were legally able to enlist, they were still racially segregated from white women.

Black women continued to struggle with limited rights, and menial labor and cleaning assignments was their expected duty. The discrimination was overwhelming until the continued racial and gender disparities sparked a military strike at a time when troop shortages were concerning. Along with the support of Mary McLeod Bethune, a renowned Black activist, the legal representation from the then NAACP’s Thurgood Marshall and other community leaders, discrimination against Black women in uniform slowly changed. The strike was one of many events that forced the Armed Forces to begin fairly incorporating Black women in military operations and allowing them to serve as legitimate soldiers.

Non-Stop Fight For Personal Freedom

Because of the tenacity of Black women collectively, the demand for equal pay and same-rank designations based on race and gender was a battle eventually won for all women. Full integration and entitlement to the same rights as their male counterparts for any woman did not take place until Oct. 20, 1978. However, Black Women still fought for her personal freedom, but the respect and the proof of their worth as women had been well established.

An all-female Black unit standing in formation in Birmingham, England, in 1945 served in Europe during World War II.

A reflection of the respect was recently exemplified during March 2022, the Congressional Medal of Honor was signed into law for members of the Women’s Army Corps 6888th battalion. This prestigious honor was given for their distinguished mail service where they processed millions of letters and packages during their deployment in Europe. These women helped connect WWII soldiers with their loved ones back home. Their remarkable work plays a major part in the reasons that the Armed Forces improved opportunities for all women who serve today. 

Thank You For Your Service

Their success is just one of the countless performances of so many brave Black Women past and present who have served us well in the U.S. Armed Forces.  One example is Madeline Swegle, the Fighter Pilot who serves with courage in the U.S. Navy.

Madeline Swegle the Navy’s first Black Female Fighter Pilot

To all those Black Women who have served or who are serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, we salute you for your bravery and honor which is necessary to keep us safe, especially now as we watch Ukraine fight for its freedom and democracy.

A few other notable Black Women who served are:

  • Cathay Williams – 1866: First Black female to serve in the U.S. Army
  • Maj. Della Raney – 1942: First Black chief nurse commissioned as a lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps
  • Annie Neal Graham – 1949: First Black female to enlist in the U.S. Marines Corps
  • Brig. Gen. Hazel Johnson-Brown – 1979: First Black chief of the Army Nurse Corps and first Black female Army brigadier general
  • Ensign Evette Robinson – 1980: First Black female pilot in the Navy to transport aircrafts
  • Brig. Gen. Marcelite Harris – 1990: First Black female general in the U.S. Air Force
  • Lt. Gen. Nadja West – 2016: First Black female lieutenant general and the highest-ranking woman to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy
  • Cadet Simone Askew – 2017: First Black female to achieve the highest position in the cadet chain of command
  • Capt. Remoshay Nelson – 2020: First Black female officer for the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds 

Let us also give special thanks to those who served during the Vietnam War. The National Vietnam War Veterans Day is on March 29. It is a day to honor the military who served in the Vietnam War, many of whom didn’t receive a proper welcome home. It is not a federal holiday, and businesses and schools are open as normal, but it is a national observance, commemorated every year. 

Please join the discussion by adding your comments and concerns. 

For Further Reading:

Black Military History is American Military History | Article | The United States Army


https://www.moran.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2022/3/signed-into-law-sen-moran-s-legislation-to-award-6888th-central-postal-directory-battalion-the-congressional-gold-medal-becomes-law#:~:text=In%20October%202018%2C%20the%20Senate,of%20the%20Six%20Triple%20Eight.black women medal of honor who served in the military – Bing images