Publications to Celebrate Black History Month

February 5, 2019

February is Black History Month, a month to recognize and honor the achievements of African Americans in U.S. History. Of course, there are many famous African Americans we hear about all the time – civil rights activists, musicians, writers, politicians, and athletes – who overcame great feats and helped define the future of our country. But one group that often doesn’t receive as much attention is those African Americans who served in the military, especially when the United States Army was segregated. It might be hard for us to imagine today, but it wasn’t until 1940 that an African American served as a general officer in the United States Army. And it wasn’t until 1999 that President Bill Clinton pardoned Henry O. Flipper, the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who was framed by white officers and wrongfully charged for embezzlement in 1881. The following books from the GPO Bookstore will teach you about the adversity African American soldiers overcame and the advancements they made for our military and country.

Did you know that initially African Americans were not allowed to fight in the Civil War? A couple years into the war, it became clear that the Union Army needed more soldiers. When this need was finally acknowledged, the Second Confiscation and Militia Act authorized President Lincoln “to employ as many persons of African descent as he may deem necessary”. In February 1863, Massachusetts Governor and abolitionist John A. Andrew began the first official recruitment effort for African American soldiers. However, racism continued to pervade the army. Even many of the Union officers believed black soldiers didn’t have the same skill level or weren’t as brave as white soldiers. Both black soldiers and their white officers faced a potentially dangerous fate, including slavery or on-the-spot execution, if captured by the confederates. Freedom by the Sword tells the story of the Colored Troops recruitment, organization, and service. The broad focus is on every theater of the Civil War and its concentration on what black soldiers contributed to Union victory. It examines the Colored Troops’ formation, training, and operations during the entire span of their service, and in every theater of the war in which they served. This book underscores the unique nature of their contributions both to Union victory and to their own ultimate liberation.

Black Soldier, White Army analyzes the operations of the all black 24th Infantry during the Korean War to determine how well the unit and its associated engineers and artillery performed. This book offers a valuable social history of black soldiers in the United States Army and looks at how the events of war intersected with the racial prejudices prevalent in that day.

Pathbreakers details how previous African American military officers made successful careers for themselves in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). This book contains a collection of interviews conducted with several African American Marine officers. The discussions and comments are presented in chronological order, offering a historical account with a uniquely personal perspective.

Finally, Nothing But Praise provides a history of the 1321st regiment, an African American regiment which served in Europe during World War II.

This Black History Month, take a moment to recognize the outstanding achievements of African Americans who have served in the United States military. Then share the knowledge!

The GPO Online Bookstore – Easy Access to Federal Publications


Shop Online Anytime: You can buy eBooks or print publications —with FREE Standard Shipping worldwide— from the U.S. Government Online Bookstore at

Shop our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.

Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.

Visit a Federal depository library: Search for U.S. Government publications in a nearby Federal depository library. You can find the records for most titles in GPO’s Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

Find more than a million official Federal Government publications from all three branches at

About the author: Blogger contributor Cat Goergen is the PR Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations office.

“A Great Thing for the Cause”: Black Soldiers in the Civil War

September 1, 2011

Of the writing and publishing of books about the Civil War, there shall be no end – especially since this year marks the beginning of the sesquicentennial of that most violent and consequential conflict. I’m a bit of a Civil War buff myself and just finished reading Fields of Blood: The Prairie Grove Campaign, which was fought in Arkansas – one of the forgotten fronts of the war. In discussing the subsequent military career of Union General James G. Blunt, it mentioned his victory at Honey Springs in Indian Territory the following year. Now I’ve learned that Honey Springs “marked the first time in the war that black soldiers in regimental strength had carried out a successful offensive operation against Confederate troops.” I’ve also learned that the 54th Massachusetts, made famous by its gallant but unsuccessful attack on Confederate Fort Wagner, as depicted in the film Glory, later steadied Union forces at a crucial juncture of the battle of Olustee – the largest Civil War battle fought inFlorida.

How did I learn all of this? By reading a new book that I predict will become a classic – Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867. I’ve been waiting for this book ever since I learned that the Army’s Center of Military History was working on it. Although the use of black troops by the Union has been studied from many angles, this is the most thorough operational history I’ve seen – in other words, this is a detailed account, by region, of the actual military activities in which these troops engaged. For every heroic charge, these soldiers, like any soldiers in war, spent lots of time patrolling, garrisoning, and guarding. As someone once noted, army life in wartime is made up of long stretches of boredom punctuated by short periods of extreme fear. In addition, poorly managed logistics and spotty (to say the least) medical services created their own special negatives, especially for troops that did not always receive adequate (or any) training. Reading about these gritty details is an excellent corrective to the romantic take on war so prevalent among Civil War soldiers before they “saw the elephant,” a colloquialism of the day for engaging in combat.

Freedom by the Sword also addresses problems unique to black soldiers – the possibility of re-enslavement or massacre if captured. After the notorious slaughter of black soldiers by Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Confederates at Fort Pillow, which soon was recognized by the South as “a propaganda weapon they had handed their opponents,” retaliatory actions and counteractions were succeeded by a mutual realization that such crimes cut both ways. In these cases, fighting for freedom had a steep price, but one that ex-slaves and free blacks alike were prepared to pay.

Freedom by the Sword is an important scholarly resource based on wide-ranging research, as well as a compelling account of men whose real accomplishment, beyond military victory, was “to assert their right to full citizenship and, by extension, that of all their kin.” Serious students of the Civil War will be using this book for many years to come. You can browse through Freedom by the Sword here, get your own copy in either paperback or hardcover, or page through it at a library.

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