Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, February 24, 2011

ONR Reflects on African-American Contributions

From Office of Naval Research Public Affairs

ARLINGTON, Va. (NNS) -- The Office of Naval Research celebrated African-American History Month with a speaking event at its Arlington, Va., headquarters, Feb. 22.

Rear Adm. Julius Caesar, Joint Concept Development and Experimentation vice director, U.S. Joint Forces Command, gave the keynote address, using the theme of "African-Americans and the Civil War" as the context for the lecture.

Caesar said that African-Americans are an influential American history and people as a whole have a pride for who they are, bringing them together as a group but also allowing them to be individuals.

"People have a natural sense of pride for where they come from," he said. "That sense of identity affirms the groups we are from and affirms you as an individual."

The audience learned the history of African-Americans' involvement in the Civil War, and how influential figures, such as Frederick Douglass, Civil War spy John Scobell and ship's pilot Robert Smalls, were important in defining American culture throughout history.

While stressing the inequalities that African-American troops encountered during the Civil War, Caesar also described how they played a decisive role in its outcome. More than 186,000 African-Americans served in 'negro' regiments and comprised nearly 10 percent of the Union Army. However, the casualty rate of the entire African-American troop contingent throughout the Civil War was more than 30 percent, which was 35 percent higher than their white counterparts.

"African-Americans were also paid 35 percent less than the white troops," he added. "And there were only 16 blacks who received the Medal of Honor during the Civil War."

This reality was portrayed in "The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union," a book Caesar cited during his speech, drawing anecdotal examples of both the oppression of African-American troops and their loyalty to the country.

"What it comes down to is that people want their freedom. African-Americans helped fight for, and build, this country. With that said, their contributions should never be overlooked," he said.

Caesar followed his discussion with a question and answer session where he addressed diversity in the Navy as well as his own personal motivations for pursuing a naval career.

There are currently more than 89,000 African-Americans serving in the Navy, comprising 18 percent of Navy enlisted personnel and 8 percent of naval officers. African-American History Month was founded by the writer, editor and historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926, to address and memorialize the significant achievements of African-Americans throughout history.

The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.

For more news from Office of Naval Research, visit www.navy.mil/local/onr/.

This article was sponsored by Military Leadership.

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