African Americans in the Union Navy, by Chuck Veit
For those familiar with the story of the African American regiments in the U.S. Army during the Civil War, the history of black sailors in the Union Navy offers a surprising and refreshing contrast.
Secretary of the Navy Welles mandated that all enlisted men be treated fairly no matter the color of their skin and enforced this order throughout all aspects of naval life. "The [U.S.} Navy has not been in the habit of examining a seaman's complexion before shipping him; 'Can you fight?' is the only question," he said.
This is a much-overlooked aspect of the black contribution to the Northern war effort and deserves to be better known. U.S. Navy history offers the only period example of integrated service by service members of many races and backgrounds.
Chuck Veit is president of the Navy and Marine Living History Association (NMLHA), a non-profit dedicated to promoting an awareness of the role played by the navies in the history of America. He is a frequent speaker at historical societies and Civil War roundtables throughout the Northeast. He has also presented several times at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, to the Naval Order of the United States in Jacksonville, Florida, and at the 238th Navy Anniversary Ball in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
All lectures are free and open to the public, no reservations are required.