"Remember me." When I say that I am not being preposterous. However, before I present an article that appeared nearly a half century ago in "Jet Magazine" about my call for the "lily white" Alabama National Guard to be integrated, allow me to speak briefly about Black History Month.
February has been designated by African Americans as Black History Month. The purpose of the observance of Black History Month is to call attention to the experience of black people in America - their struggle, achievemets and contributions Americans of African decent have made to America and the world.
The remembance of Black History Month has its genesis in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson began the observance of "Negro History Week." Woodson chose the second week in February because it marked the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and Abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Since 1976 Black History Month has been celebrated. There has been a debate as to whether an entire month is appropriate, i.e., too long for the observance. The consensus among African Americans seems to be that since historically and traditionally in America the entire twelve months of a year and every year have been devoted to extolling white history, an entire month is both desirable and neccesary.
Hopefully, during the month of February not only Americans of African descent but Americans of all descents will reflect on the history - life, contributions, struggle and achievements of Americans of African descent. And the redemptive contribution Americans of African desent have made to America exceeds that made by any other racial or ethnic group in America. This has been a significant factor in limiting and, in some instances, preventing the retribution that America rightly deserved.
In my reminiscing and searching the Internet I came across this article about me, that is, my endeavor to integrate the Alabama National Guard that appeared in "Jet Magazine" on October 5, 1961, nearly a half century ago. This is that article:
CLERIC DEMANDS MIXING OF ALA. NATIONAL GUARD.
"Jet" - Oct. 5,1961
A Montgomery, Ala., integration leader, the Rev. Uriah J. Fields, demanded that the U. S. Secretary of Defense integrate the 'lily white' Alabama National Guard. In a telegram to Robert S. McNamara, the Rev. Mr. Fields, president of the Montgomery Amelioration and Restoration Assn., stated that he had made two unsuccessful attempts to join the state National Guard and "each time I was informed that Negroes were not wanted." He said the Alabama Guard is the fifth largest in the nation and was supported by $13 million in Federal funds during fiscal year 1960. He added: "White Alabamians are permitted to join the Guard, evade the draft and secure rank while Negroes are drafted and compelled to active duty without rank."
Fifteen years after President Harry S. Truman issued an Executive Order in 1948 to integrate the military, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara issued Department of Defense "Directive 5120.26" mandating that military commanders enforce ingtegration in all aspects of military life, including housing. It was not until 1967 that the directive was fully implemented.
During the 1970's the Alabama National Guard continued to increase in size and diversity. African Americans made up approximately one-third of the total troop strength in 2002. By 1989. Alabama had the largest National Guard in the nation with 21,551 Guard soldiers and airmen. With a considerable decrease in federal funding the National Guard numbers decreased in 2004 to 12,500. Noticeably, the preceeding year of the $28 million in the Guard's fiscal year budget $22 million was federal funding.
During Black History Month may young African Americans, in particular, and other Americans in general be reminded that actions, including the one cited, multiplied, made it possible for African Americans to have a greater measure of freedom than previous generations had and for an American of African descent Barack Obama to become president of the United States of America in the first decade of the twenty-first century.
In the opening statement of this discourse I stated: "Remember me. When I say that I am not being preposterous." This is to be understood in light of this statement about being honored found in my book: "The Mutuality Warrior" (p. 45). I am a Mutuality Warrior. I quote myself:
"They (Mutuality Warriors) possess honor. This does not mean that they are honoed by other peope, especially by those who have ulterior motives for honoring others and are dishonest when they display ther accolades and offer commendations. Often these would be hard put to do their honoring privately, just between themselves and the honorees. How few honors would be extended if knowledge of those honored was confined to those giving the honors and those receiving the honors. There are few areas where deceivers operate more pretentiously than in the area of passing out honors. The Mutuality Warrior does not seek hnonors and will refuse them when he feels they represents something fraudulent and will serve as an ego-tripping vehicle for the distributors of the honors."
Copyright 2011 by Uriah J. Fields