I love genealogy and learning about who my people were and what they did. I’ve had a few “holy shit” moments of discovery. I’m thinking we all have or will have while digging in the past. Fun Fact: I discovered two people who worked for the same agency as I did that were related to me. Not sure how happy they were when I shared what I learned. 🤪 I also found a great uncle who abandoned his first family, changed his name and became someone else. We found his new family through DNA 75 years later.
Recently a family discovered a photograph of a great, great grandfather from World War 1. I wish I had such a family photo. What makes this photo so awesome was that it was taken of a African American military soldier. Do you know how incredible this find is?
When the United States entered the great war in 1917 Black Americans wanted to show their patriotism. 20,000 black men enlisted and after the Selective Service Act over 700,000 more Black Americans entered the military. But all things weren’t equal. The Civil War ended but bigotry had not. Black Americans were bared from the Marines and only menial roles in the Navy.
Draft boards were all white. The draft registration forms had the corner ripped off so everyone knew that this person was black. Their training would be segregated. Very few men got the opportunity to serve in combat. The black enlisted were treated badly by not being issued proper clothing, not given adequate food and forced to live in poor or brutal housing conditions. Our black enlisted men were not treated the same as their white counterpart. Sadly after the war it never got any better when they returned home.
I’m proud to have been asked to paint this family photo. This rare photo of a man who wanted to serve. Whose parents were likely born into slavery. Jim Crow would take over where slavery ended. Separate was never going to be equal. The killing, the lynching and the hate never stopped. It’s still alive today.
Not sure how much has really changed when it comes to racial issues. We seem so divided in this country. It breaks my heart to listen to the news. So much anger and hate. This painting was an honor to paint. It was an honor to paint this American who loved his country. Who wanted to serve. Who would one day have a great, great, grandson and a great, great, great grandson who would do a life of service in law enforcement. He did not live to know these things. He planted the seed that ran through his blood that flowed to the next generations. It is important to do something greater then yourself. When you become a law enforcement officer you take an oath of office. That oath is a promise to protect and serve others.
In the military the first oath for the enlisted military was given June 14, 1775. It was and still is a very important final step before going out into the world to try and make it safe for all of us.