|Lonnie Bunch, museum director, historian, lecturer, and author, is proud to present A Page from Our American Story, a regular on-line series for Museum supporters. It will showcase individuals and events in the African American experience, placing these stories in the context of a larger story — our American story.
A Page From Our American Story
Freddie Stowers, the grandson of a South Carolina slave, holds a unique spot in America’s pantheon of war heroes — as the only African American awarded the Medal of Honor for service in World War I. Stowers’ story, however, must be told in two parts.
The first part of the story is his act of heroism in 1918; the second part is that it took more than 72 years before Stowers finally received the recognition he was due.
The United States was the last major combatant to enter World War I, the “war to end all wars.” The conflict began in Europe in 1914, but in the U.S., isolationist sentiments were strong resulting in a foreign policy of non-intervention. However, in April 1917, after a German U-boat sank the British ship Lusitania, killing 128 Americans on board, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany. Three months later, on July 3, 1917, American troops landed in France.
Corporal Freddie Stowers came to France as part of the all-black Company C, 371st Regiment, 93rd Division that deployed in September, 1918. His service in France was short but courageous and memorable.
More than 50 years after the Civil War, America’s military was still segregated. The French, however, had no such rules, and Stowers and Company C were sent to the front lines to serve alongside French troops.
On September 28, just days after arriving in France, Stowers’ company was in the midst of an attack on Hill 188, Champagne Marne Sector, France, when enemy forces appeared to be giving up.
According to the War Department, German soldiers emerged from their trenches waving a white flag, arms in the air — military actions that signal surrender. It was a ruse, however. As Americans, including Cpl. Stowers, went to capture the “surrendering” Germans, another wave of the enemy arose and opened fire.
Very quickly, Company C’s lieutenant and non-commissioned officers were killed in the fight. This left the 21-year-old Stowers in command. Without hesitation, he implored his men to advance on the Germans.
Stowers would be mortally shot during the exchange. Wounded and dying, Stowers continued to fight on, inspiring his men to push the enemy back. With Stowers leading the counter-attack, Americans took out an enemy machine gun position and went on to capture Hill 188.
Following the battle, Stowers’ commanding officer nominated him for the Medal of Honor, but the nomination was never processed. The Pentagon said the paperwork was misplaced. Some raise the possibility that the nomination wasn’t misplaced at all, but deliberately lost. They point to the fact that American troops were segregated and suggest that racial bias in the military might be the reason for Stowers’ missing paperwork.
The final part of Freddie Stowers’ story begins in 1990. As the Department of Defense began to modernize its data systems, it ordered a review of all battlefield medal nominations. When Stowers’ recommendation was found, the Pentagon quickly took action to give the corporal the long overdue recognition and honor he deserved.
On April 24, 1991, more than 72 years after Stowers made the ultimate sacrifice for his nation, his sisters Georgiana Palmer and Mary Bowens, 88- and 77-years-old at the time, were presented his Medal of Honor by President George H. W. Bush.
Long before Stowers was honored by his nation, he, along with other members of Company C, received recognition from the French government: “For extraordinary heroism under fire.” Stowers and his unit received the Croix de Guerre – the French War Cross — the highest military medal France awards to allied soldiers.
Prior to World War I, 49 African Americans had been awarded the Medal of Honor, including 25 men who fought for the Union in the Civil War. There were 119 Medals of Honor recipients in World War I, with Stowers being the only African American. His long overdue recognition in 1991 is a small but important sign of the progress we as a nation have made.
|The National Museum of African American History and Culture is the newest member of the Smithsonian Institution’s family of extraordinary museums.
The museum will be far more than a collection of objects. The Museum will be a powerful, positive force in the national discussion about race and the important role African Americans have played in the American story — a museum that will make all Americans proud.
Born: February 7, 1812
Died: June 9, 1870
British novelist Charles Dickens was born February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England. Over the course of his writing career, he wrote the beloved classic novels Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations.
On June 9, 1870, Dickens died of a stroke in Kent, England, leaving his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership of the American Civil Rights Movement achieved more genuine progress toward racial equality in America than the previous 350 years had produced. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest leaders in world history.
Our country is celebrating his birthday. Check out these classroom resources, activities, and lesson plans to learn more about him:
- About Dr. King
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington DC
- Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, Georgia
- Activity: “I Have a Dream” Speech
- Activity: “I Have a Dream” Banner
- Audio Recording: “I Have a Dream” Speech
- Guide: Curriculum for Empowerment (PDF)
- Lesson Plans
In memory of all victims and or survivors at the hands of guns… Ask your member of Congress – What will it take?
Another day another School shooting! Our hearts are broken and we all still keep offering prayers for all the students, teachers and thank staff for saving lives …and YES we should but as we all know thoughts and prayers are no longer enough! we need action on laws that are quite simple to implement and while the right keeps saying so … no one’s gun is likely to be taken away unless of course it should be… due to a failed background check,domestic violence, mental illness, documentation stating so
Now, after the umpteenth tragic incident I find out that the rant below and the infographic above done in 2013 is now out dated, which is beyond sad beyond my understanding considering the number of deaths, injuries and life changing experiences from folks who are, were and continue to purchase guns. The new reports taken in June of 2015 were that about 52% of Americans want gun reform. Now, in this year of 2018 at least 83% support criminal background checks. Sadly, we have Republicans who still take in a whole lot of money from the NRA and don’t seem to care or listen to “WeThePeople” and that motto; One person One vote either no longer exists or is considered a joke to those leaning far right and while no one is trying to take guns away from anyone, maybe those who have mental health issues or violent tendencies should be not be allowed to obtain a weapon of any kind that can harm kill them or any one else. The GOP has used fear mongering for what seems like decades which obviously allows the killings and or massacres to continue … Honestly, are these the kind of people we want in Congress – what happened to Public Servants
Reports are that at least 90% of our population agrees that it is about time we have some #gunsafety laws.
Additionally, most of us lefties are sticking together ,even some members of the NRA are for background checks, but we need a few Republican members of Congress to put people ahead of the NRA, the mighty $$ as well as their NRA ratings and until folks do, I am reserving judgment on how republicans keep saying they need to change seriously. We all know the NRA is in it to win it for gun manufacturers while lefties are not just in this for victims and survivors but for common sense laws … the NRA is not too big to fail and the assault weapons ban could have stopped some massacres.
There are approximately 310 Million people in America about 5 Million of those are pro-gun folks… so, why can’t we do the reforms needed?
We all know illegal guns on the streets kill someone everyday though we must thank Wayne lapierre for going on camera and showing Americans just why …
I am against handguns … period. There are enough incidents my family and friends have experienced that have molded my attitude toward guns over the years, lest a narrow escape or two of my own. The thought of a teacher having or being forced to keep a handgun in the classroom just does not make sense. I am without a doubt completely against military style weapons because I do not think we civilians need to have them at all and I definitely understand how folks interpret the 2nd Amendment while disagreeing on attaching it to states’ rights. The fact is that Gabby Gifford’s attack and all attacks since should have made us all sit up, move into genuine outrage and take immediate action. We need to use the sadness with a determination to at least ban assault weapons, retrofit K-12 School buildings and act rationally about creating registries, better permit process, close the gun show loophole and in my opinion every state should be required to impose a state of the art background check. While not an expert on the NRA, ALEC or gun safety, I do have a strong opinion and need to share information, newsletters and interesting articles that are meant to start a dialogue. I will admit cringing anytime members of Congress use states’ rights as their solution to what are clearly American issues and scream for Federal intervention. We need Mayors, Governors and voters to stand up and speak out more in this era of trump
Most of us believe that Gun Safety laws impact all Americans, clearly what we have now not only needs to be reformed, but should reflect our 21st Century living, formed around the notion of common sense solutions like universal background checks.
Lawrence Guyot, a civil rights leader who survived jailhouse beatings in the Deep South in the 1960s and went on to encourage generations to get involved, has died. He was 73.
Guyot had a history of heart problems and suffered from diabetes, and died at home in Mount Rainier, Md., his daughter Julie Guyot-Diangone said late Saturday. She said he died sometime Thursday night; other media reported he passed away Friday.
A Mississippi native, Guyot (pronounced GHEE-ott) worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and served as director of the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, which brought thousands of young people to the state to register blacks to vote despite a history of violence and intimidation by authorities. He also chaired the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which sought to have blacks included among the state’s delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention. The bid was rejected, but another civil rights activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, addressed the convention during a nationally televised appearance.
Guyot was severely beaten several times, including at the notorious Mississippi State Penitentiary known as Parchman Farm. He continued to speak on voting rights until his death, including encouraging people to cast ballots for President Barack Obama.
“He was a civil rights field worker right up to the end,” Guyot-Diangone said.
Guyot participated in the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Summer Project to make sure a new generation could learn about the civil rights movement.
“There is nothing like having risked your life with people over something immensely important to you,” he told The Clarion-Ledger in 2004. “As Churchill said, there’s nothing more exhilarating than to have been shot at — and missed.”
His daughter said she recently saw him on a bus encouraging people to register to vote and asking about their political views. She said he was an early backer of gay marriage, noting that when he married a white woman, interracial marriage was illegal in some states. He met his wife Monica while they both worked for racial equality.
“He followed justice,” his daughter said. “He followed what was consistent with his values, not what was fashionable. He just pushed people along with him.”
Susan Glisson, executive director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi, called Guyot “a towering figure, a real warrior for freedom and justice.”
“He loved to mentor young people. That’s how I met him,” she said.
When she attended Ole Miss, students reached out to civil rights activists and Guyot responded.
“He was very opinionated,” she said. “But always — he always backed up his opinions with detailed facts. He always pushed you to think more deeply and to be more strategic. It could be long days of debate about the way forward. But once the path was set, there was nobody more committed to the path.”
Glisson said Guyot’s efforts helped lay the groundwork for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Mississippi has more black elected officials than any other state in the country, and that’s a direct tribute to his work,” she said
Guyot was born in Pass Christian, Miss., on July 17, 1939. He became active in civil rights while attending Tougaloo College in Mississippi, and graduated in 1963. Guyot received a law degree in 1971 from Rutgers University, and then moved to Washington, where he worked to elect fellow Mississippian and civil rights activist Marion Barry as mayor in 1978.
“When he came to Washington, he continued his revolutionary zeal,” Barry told The Washington Post on Friday. “He was always busy working for the people.”
Guyot worked for the District of Columbia government in various capacities and as a neighborhood advisory commissioner.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton told The Post in 2007 that she first met Guyot within days of his beating at a jail in Winona, Miss. “Because of Larry Guyot, I understood what it meant to live with terror and to walk straight into it,” she told the newspaper. On Friday, she called Guyot “an unsung hero” of the civil rights movement.
“Very few Mississippians were willing to risk their lives at that time,” she said. “But Guyot did.”
In recent months, his daughter said he was concerned about what he said were Republican efforts to limit access to the polls. As his health was failing, he voted early because he wanted to make sure his vote was counted, he told the AFRO newspaper.