African-American History Month - William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
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William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital

 

African-American History Month

The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion is recognized as the first African-American unit to be integrated into the United States Army.  Pictured here is a ceremony commemorating the deactivation and the integration of the unit, in December 1947, into the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.

The 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion is recognized as the first African-American unit to be integrated into the United States Army. Pictured here is a ceremony commemorating the deactivation and the integration of the unit, in December 1947, into the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division.

By Jane Ludwig & Darlene Richardson, Historian, US Dept of VA, Veterans Health Administration
Friday, February 18, 2011

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.  Here at the VA, we would like to recognize the role of African Americans in the military and in the VA.  The military history of African Americans spans from Colonial times to the present.  Not a single war was fought by the United States in which African Americans did not participate.


Which National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (VA predecessor) was the first to admit African American Veterans after the Civil War?
     Answer:  The Central Branch Home located in Dayton, OH (now known as Dayton VAMC). The first U.S. Colored Troops Veterans were admitted in March 1867; several of them were former slaves.

Which existing VA facility began as the first government hospital established exclusively for African American Veterans?
     Answer:  Tuskegee VA hospital in Alabama. Originally known as the “Hospital for Sick and Injured Colored World War Veterans,” it operated as an all-black Veteran’s hospital for 31 years--from its opening on Feb. 12, 1923 until it was desegregated by VA in 1954.

Who was the first African American director to integrate leadership at a VA hospital (excludes Tuskegee)?
     Answer:  Dr. Howard W. Kearney became the first African American VA hospital director at East Orange, NJ, in July 1962. He had been director at the Tuskegee VA hospital since 1959 prior to his assignment to East Orange.

How many VA facilities are named after African Americans?
     Answer:  Two
       • The Jesse Brown VAMC in Chicago was named after Jesse Brown, a Vietnam War Veteran appointed by President Clinton to serve as VA’s Secretary; he served from 1993-1997.
       • The Ralph H. Johnson VAMC in Charleston, SC, was named for USMC private Ralph H. Johnson, who was killed in action during the Vietnam War and awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. http://www.charleston.va.gov/page.cfm?pg=16

Who was the first person of African American heritage to be appointed as VA’s Administrator or Secretary?
     Answer:  Jesse Brown, who served as VA’s Secretary from 1993-1997

Where is the nation’s first full figure “in-the-round” (360 degrees) monument to honor Civil War U.S. Colored Troops located?
     Answer:  Nashville National Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee

Which national cemetery has the most U.S. Colored Troops buried there?
     Answer: Memphis has the most at approximately 4,209; followed by Natchez (2,200) and Nashville (1,910).

For history on African Americans in the military, go to:
http://www.army.mil/africanamericans/
http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/historical_information/black_history.html
http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/mohb.html

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