African Americans in America's Wars

by Russell L. Adams, Ph.D.

As in two previous editions of HUArchivesNet, the information contained in this column is selected to augment the thematic context of subjects covered in the main articles. The material below begins with the American Revolution and ends with the U.S.-Vietnam War (1964-1974).






At least 5,000 African Americans, free and unfree, served in the Continental Army and Navy of the American Revolution, the largest numbers coming from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.





Several thousand African Americans helped to defend Washington, DC, Philadelphia and New Orleans in the U.S. British War of 1812-14.





At least 1,000 African Americans, mostly seamen in the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Mexico, participated in the Mexican War.





The services of some 186,000 African American soldiers, spread among some120 regiments, and some 29,000 Black seamen contributed significantly to the Union victory.





Until the 1890s, the soldiers, being some 2,500 African Americans, served. In the West in the 8th and 9th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry.




In the Spanish American War, three all Black units- the 8th Illinois, the 9th U.S. Volunteers and the 23rd Kansas, along with 2,000 Black seamen - represented Black participation.





In World War I, 367,000 African Americans entered military service, the 369th, 370th, 371st Infantry regiments being the most famous for valor.





In World War II, 700,000 African Americans were in the U.S. Army, 165,000 were in the Navy, and 497,000 served overseas.





In Vietnam, African Americans numbered 16,500 in the Army, 3,500 in the Marines, 908 in the Air Force, and 500 in the Navy.


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November 2000