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the law is actually calledthat's rather remarkable aspect of american history that africanamericans though isn't on to serve a nation that was not willing to serve them in returnand we explore the reasons for reasons are eligibleif you're willing to put your life in the life freer countryand if you could demonstrate to your sources of a weight systemthat you could be everybody's bit is good a soldier as he couldthen the whole theory of segregation as a bridge spryauthor tells a civil war for another ocean a war from a civil war for oneof the confederate generals heard that the confederacy was planning to recruitnegroes to put them into military organizations is generational letterjefferson davis saying don't do this whatever you do don't do this for god's sakes usenegroes for whatever purpose you wish have been chopped would
have them put up campfires given all kinds of menial tasksbut for gosh sakes do not armed and not make them soldiers because itsslaves of black men can make good soldiers a wholetheory of slavery is dead the whole theory of the confederacyhis role so i thought so toofrederick douglass realizing that same thingcharacter as a different way in his efforts to get black menserved in the union and i'll paraphrase but hesaid something along the lines of this once you put a uniform on a walkmangiven gold buttons with the ego of the unitedstates on their arrival justput on a horse make him a soldier of the nation he
goes what are willing to risk his life no poweror ian but i am the right to full citizenship the samepoint to different angles themilitary experience i thought for our three hundred yearsof history is unique in that it was themilitary they only professionally occupation the only tradein america for most of the three hundred yearsor a black person could show worth other than just being atool to be used to chop cut there help raise a crop or take yourkitchen it was also the only profession the only activein american society where somenegroes to play back and watch other negroes go into themilitary kosher nation can look up
what portion and gain inspirationthe lawyers are also more of the slaves here for real is theonly way for long career over history whereblack man to become free and revolutionary period andprivilege character and not only in america but in other parts of the colonialexperience in in the caribbean and in south america is was what americans doonly way that you can gain their freedom by serving the nation by serving ournation time warp white americans realizedthe dangers inherent in this because blackpeople could serve in war and we had to give them their freedom struggleso as soon as the conflict was over and pre revolutionary times during therevolutionary war and all are through so workers says the conflict was over and wedidn't need his black manpower for god's sakes get them out of the military can get them back where
they want to salute on free anymoreand so they don't start thinking we actually can be as good as what but was toolate and the breakthrough is not generally sure werecarried so much as it was at the end of the civil warfactory informlosses and mostly youngmen like george washington was his older brother inhere and nowwe've already heard of the uniform isis a distinguishing mark what makes a soldier's soldier asailor a sailor an airman am it it bonds you to a certainculture it make you differ if you should take the
opportunity to remind my memoirs or talk about this i was a young black kid growing upin new york city and i was just another kid in the tenement districts until i went tocollege joined our t c and i've got to inform how often the merits of me like this anddifferent a different part of a special group and imagine inrevolutionary times during pre civil war kurds on the mexican border into this sowalker when they essentially black people could know property they could they couldn't ownproperty they couldn't they couldn't vote they couldn't get a job they couldn't enter a trade school theyessentially were all subsistence liverson the dole of their masters and even those who are free had great difficulty earneleven nurse and wonderful pictures of the period an anomaly ofphotographs with engravings of the earlier pre photograph periodof an absolutely destitute black person in rags
literally dragged into saw picture the other night is a warrior this man is andrags a very it looks like he's in rags whole visit is a personageragamuffin and then he joins the army and in the next picture he'sstanding tall as china's left in his eyes of grated carrot rifle he's got theuniform on who's no longer the story is nowsomebody is wearing the same uniform and that's what it was all apressure to clear a civil war korea that they should receive the same pace or work they tried todo that but it is also kurdish groupto go after emotionally war after war ii control that once the blood had beenshed once the sacrifices that they made promises were always keptit always get their freedom you know is it the bounties they were promised that knowledge of thebonuses a language that promise has reopenedit's historic
what it said was that though we have the whole long way to go but therehas never been a conflict in american historyand notwithstanding the conditions of our server to their bondage orprevailing social mores our society where black men and women did not respondto respond because one they still love and believe in this country will all itsfaults to buy it was greater opportunityto get some more life than any other institution inamerican society was awful and so we have always answer the calland will always continue to secure coal and with each conflictthings got a little butter things improved and that frederickdouglass airliner may ultimately you cannot be denied for citizenship ithink it's also this this long history that goes back to the massachusetts militia sixteenfifty two this a long military history and african american military
history a proud history i think to some extentdemonstrates why the united states armed forces to this dayremains perhaps the most thoroughly integrated meritoriousinstitution americans perfect know that perfect problems realproblems of color in every part of american life but thebest of any other institution evidence that aschairman of the joint former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff but that was in the day when i was chairmanjoint chiefs of staff that i'd not did not remember the originsof my successhe says it was alwaysthe questionbut ok if
he says that he's always pushed immigration progress change in americaand in the military late in the war iiamericans who had previously banned blocked from military service began a weapon that can you talkabout how necessity christian welcome well when warcomes on board is being shed and casualties are beingexperience knew really have to start looking for a mentorand by now is known that the slaves can be soldiersthree black tank and the soldiers and the british were trying torecruit blacks promising their freedom so as was often the case inour history market forces and our we put a market forcebecame an operative forpurposes of strategic necessity and soto determine that they could become so huge so necessity has
always pushes the wall and into the present frankly whenpresident truman i guess was the first one you can say who did it for purposes ofnecessity being pressed by the emerging post war a war to civil rights movementbut there was somehow truism in what president truman did he thought it was theright thing to do that point in our nation's history the late forties the only thingcomparable but not quite as rapidly in the civil war where we madeall these black men in uniform but we allowed for the first time in eighteen sixtysix and seven for black regiments to be creative and to remain part of thepermanent regular army are there was pressure to do that but it wasn'tentirely altruistic because we also need troops to go out in and settled the west andso he's proud black buffalo soldiers were out there they could not land but they were protectingland for those who could only protecting the people who are coming out michael's claimsand so it has always been that necessity this that has
pushed blacks into or allow blacks into the military even know ifleft to their own devices the white political leaders at the time wouldhave wooden resisted but it resisted include george washington initially a slave ownerwho had his own set of problems with a slave that exists in the middle of thenumber and who he was but he was not able to build itsslave population accepted as we'll figure out whether to give them freedom afterhis visit this wasand where he is in jersey they getpeople were not soldiers not quite dedicated to natural causes like thomas jefferson write andsay come home and commentator on washington is got a lotinvested in any any any picks made before he picks regionthat that may seem like a like an easy choice nowadays but you have to
remember that back in those days that was aremarkable tradition george was truly was the father of the nationbecause it was only a i was only a few years into ourindependence while we really hadn't become americans more so than sayvirginians are new yorkers but especially virginians and to have the homesteadthreat wow where you're gonna lose all of your property and yourcorrection your title and her slight stay away from that for purposes of servingthe nation was was quite remarkable thing to do for george washington and that's whydeserving of the father of the nation in fact early you can now go up toeighteen sixty one when the same choice was presented to people like robert e leeand he did not serve the nation he went on to virginia served inand he did not find that the population is more important for states even though hetended not to do with slavery
when i'm in the war because new york because it's long struggled as areall cities want to restrain the british navy and washington has tostop their unease he doesn't happen and how can you talk about what it is to be aleader to try to hold him and again and have them believe in you and alsogives you a second yeah general washington had anenormous challenges i'm amy had a year of cheap congressthat was not really given the wherewithal to fight the war he had to loseindividual states to slash call is that the war formeddling he had to traders vote for overturning a manhe had no time and that you know he was not that successful in general at this point hiswife has its successor earlier in his courage general was somewhat mixed and helost more barrels anyone for what he had was a strategic vision of where wehad to end up and what he also had was a commitment
a total commitment to this concept of a new nation founded in libertyand he was a natural leader and sopeople were willing to soldier on to stick with him to trust andto believe in humans or those darkest days of those turtlewinters of late seventeenth olympics is provoke reflection of therubble a little story we told the infantry school for kind of what a good leadersand has the the perfect definition of a leader a good leader somebodywhoa who's troops will follow him or her if only out ofcuriosity main trust this person so much for such a leader willfollow you if only the only thing we have to go on his curiosity as to where you might be taking usah that's ability of tongue in cheek expression that certainly applies towashington he had a vision people won't fall and it was not easy in until finally
the french came to your assistance and helpless with those naval problems which youalluded to that we finally got our role which ended up your timeit's a watershed momentin the nationbobby cast statement of human rights youknow the declaration of independence are taking on the most remarkabledocuments and in the world and certainly in english language or interestsand in just a few words it captures that essencean inalienable rights rights not given due by the state but by giving to give you butgod so they can be they can be taken away at anypurpose of the state is to secure these rights not togive them to war to tell you what you supposed to do with them but to secure
those words for you one of those race life liberty and the pursuit of happiness we holdthese truths to be self evident dollars contract not proven it's selfevident why the self evident people got their inalienablecoverage for some remarkable than the plight of black folks in theplight of black men and the man who wrote those words thomas jeffersonkept slaves the thomas jefferson novelist wrote those marvelouswords and he understood these and the inconsistency ofthe soul because he also wrote some time later to a friendif there is a just god or to pay for this they payfor it because one a load it on the aspect of the american experience is that withrespect to african americans or rhetoric has never entirely machtreality reality of life in america certainly was never greaterreality that that difference that point of decoration and
fourteen years later the constitution was written when we were treated as three fifths of a human beingfor population purposes we are devoting with the main difference and that wefind amy the civil war to get that behind us are thirteen fourteen fifteen amendment that that do areconstruction plessy vs ferguson and it's only in the last generation whereyoung people really starting to get this history if we get the scarlett where we've come from solving the lastgeneration that rhetoric and the reality frank a closer forsome african americans for brothers is as far apart as ever beenand that's a great challenge for many in america today how we make therhetoric reality we talk about thedeclaration of independence and what must that sounds like ahuge black people this is a pre literateforces have bought two yeah they didn't mean that
i mean this is a new mission christians all abouteuropeans and white folks talking white folks that i mean it wasn't hard tobe in that they were confused think of this applied to them when they were heldin bondage and when the constitution was written and the greatcompromise which produced history for scribble ins todeath you've you have to realize thatwe all have to realize that things come in town and youhave to start out with the statement of principle and that they may take a long time before the principal becomesreality some parts of the market and the case of african americans ortook along to but one way that we can make that timepass quickly and demonstrate that thesemarvel's principles must apply to us was through the military jury has widened soimportant and that's why i am or more americans and especially african american should study this
history and understand how important history is one of the onlyinstitutions to demonstrate a week or twoaway brother sister or insane uniform carrying the same gun tying thesame way killing an enemy the same way with our blog mixing in the mall ofamericapaulsayshear nothing nothing quite likewatching your son or daughter the city'sgolf or don't think the spring to different between what herfamily are watching her family and perhaps most below thing you have inthe world is going off to war and the potential danger than to the risk that
person in a combat role or macon back grievously injuredarms and so there's a high degree of anxiety in painthan lolita loneliness while at the wallop creative ofseparation there are the american people over the years haveshown that they can beat the warriors blowingand the yanks as they send overseas but then this all of nature thefamilies are left behind a way for the cutback but it is painful timei've talked to many parents divorced or two of my time thatbill is set so is reinvigoratedme to make sure that if i ever once again have to send young people into combat buti give him every opportunity to win and come home safelywell
it occurred to me in some waystolstoydr joe thomas jrpeoplerunning to double up hundreds when the traditional instance agreed to slavesand editors can you talk about the spirit of liberty and whatcauses people to go on these journeys home and the end of an answerthey'll once once an ideal is toturn loose of the genius of our ideals tend to be very corrosiveto the existing structure we say as recently asdemocracy being a pro so it had in an economist's world took seventy three years toeat away at that idiot and the same thing applies in our early historyaffordable a slave back in
seventeen seventies to suddenly be promised freedomyou know more muscle more trapped here no more i thinksomeone tell me what to do no more being beaten or whipped freedom eventhough freedom for black person in those days to something quite different and freedom for a white priest thelessons from that was in credibly powerful motivation it was theonly alternative to slavery me that was the plea was slain in newfreedom or it might get me a peace alliance where i mightpick up like smoke alarm a tree had to be an incrediblypowerful motivator and the british were clever enough to have touse an initiallyyoucan religious groups eventhis a free him a weekend getaway and the way the only way you could get in those days are
the guys to read some other ways that move the easiest way to get itto survive the motorist for it was to showus a certain tension and not only that the human formhe would be given the russians you would be reasonably well fed willreport due to be part of something greater than a plantation existenceyou are part of the national effort and so itwas it was uplifting and so many ways to get out of this horrible situation we'rein it could to the devil for global much traction it gave you the proper sunlightfor serving something something was a nation that might not be serving youin the proper way but nevertheless you can make a contribution to the futureand so i think the motivations for service must have been what many andvaried and that different levels not just get a job but i'm doing somethingsomething something more important than just the societal existence
is suppressed conservative we in nineteen eightyseven are your sex or where we our relationshipis perfect it's hard forus to realize what must have been like two hundred and ten or twentyyears ago where slavery resistanceand people were essentially nothing more than a piece of probably extortthem to be deported he kept paying attention to have theentire incentive systems to slow it down and you make sure younever took advantage is sentence and then suddenly this little or apope comes or through serving the nation and showing a willingness tosacrifice for life of leisure and what a powerful motivator the questionis what does that what does the military
teams and they're about making atough decision theo the military is all thatdecisionmaking thickly if you are a combat arms off and everyaspect of military life and not to show off to the soldiers will form an informantwe detour people my decision that's what it's all about home to make good decisions for their lifeand death decision and we give young people in the military a greatresponsibility at a very early age learn what my son became a second lieutenant and it was a cavalryofficer tank and a sign off to germany and hewrote back a one point lead and it always tanks and trucks and always troops are responsible forthat today after three million dollars and more than the threefour million dollars on only twenty two years old pulp and thoughwe expect of those tanks to be maintained those troops be taking care of our young lieutenant michael powelland put a heck of a lot a responsibility on him and taught him the importance of making
decisions and so i think that his leadership training andtraining in making decisions in the military probably unlike any other conflicthe saysgeorge george washington of course he got his military experience thanin the cream or your year of a television a militiaand that his early history is quite shrinkingas an officer in the militia when he did out in the wilderness of thosetimes and he was an enormously successful leahy hehad some big losses during those periods but leach lost to learn more about self amoral or immoral about the professional arms odd andhe became hard and i don't mean that in anegative sense but he became hard and he knew how to make difficult tough decisions so whenhis time came to really go up on stage for the main act
the creation of a new nation endured for it would harden over many manymany years of experience in trial tribulationsmaybe a thousand miles of leadership now in jail orsolar billion offices stock was in talks with everywordyou make the decision to make their decisionsgood leader of those leaders were able totake losses learn from the federallaw has come back the next day with the same level of confidenceconfidence shaken and i'm a korean communicate your troops you're yourconfidence even after loss and really do when hewins make sure that the credit goes to those under him who are really
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Africans in America
Episode Number
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Interview with Colin Powell, Former Head of The Joint Chiefs of Staff
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WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Colin Powell is interviewed about the Declaration of Independence and how it applied to black people, the spirit of liberty, on blacks fighting during the Revolutionary War
Race and Ethnicity
American history, African Americans, civil rights, slavery, abolition, Civil War
(c) 1998-2017 WGBH Educational Foundation
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Chicago: “Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with Colin Powell, Former Head of The Joint Chiefs of Staff,” 1998-00-00, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 20, 2019,
MLA: “Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with Colin Powell, Former Head of The Joint Chiefs of Staff.” 1998-00-00. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 20, 2019. <>.
APA: Africans in America; 102; Revolution; Interview with Colin Powell, Former Head of The Joint Chiefs of Staff. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from