African Americans: Pioneers

They joined the military as part of the World War II effort to defeat totalitarian regimes based on myths of racial and national superiority. These African American men and women were well aware of the large irony built into the fact that they were serving in racially segregated units. They set out to prove that African American soldiers could fight and serve as well as any others, and that they deserved equal status both inside the barracks and in the civilian world from which they came.

Featured Story: Pearle W. Mack, Jr.

"I can almost remember the first time I saw a black major, especially during World War II-that just didn't happen."

(Video Interview, Part 1, 29:17)

Pearle Mack grew up in an integrated neighborhood in Topeka, Kansas, and his first encounter with racism occurred when he tried to enlist in the Army the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He served in the segregated Army of World War II, with few officers of his own color to look up to. Then he made a life in the armed forces, watching the strict bonds of segregation loosen and attitudes change over the next thirty years, through two more wars.