One person's thoughts may change the world
To the unknowing eye, this picture is just a soldier standing next to a truck, circa World War II. Specifically, a GMC 6×6 transport truck. This picture was taken somewhere in Europe. Nothing special, perhaps at first glance you probably didn’t recognized the ethnic background of him. Looking more closely, you probably may guess he’s African American, which, if you know your history, he was dealing with a segregated army at the time, and under what many African Americans have termed “the era of second class citizenship” (Actually, I just made that up, and I should copyright it).
Actually there is more to the story than just that. This individual had been drafted out of Macon, Georgia. At the time, he was the bread winner of the family; his father had died from being worked to death on the Southern railroad line in 1937.
Remember 1937? The United States was still slowly coming out of the Great Depression. He had a mother and seven other siblings that he took responsibility for. He had dropped out of school and worked in efforts to help the family. In the time period between 1937 and 1941, he also became a surrogate father to some of his younger siblings. Then in 1942, a draft notice comes from the United States government. Now, here he is, drafted, taken from helping his family, trained to fight but not allowed to, sent first to England and eventually Europe, and… having to deal with the further effects of second class citizenship, during a great war. His brother was also drafted, and was scheduled to be sent to fight in the Pacific war. The truck he’s standing next to is part of the red ball express of trucks driven by African Americans during World War II. By the way, he sent most of his pay back home to help his mother and siblings. He stayed in Europe until 1946, after the reconstruction of Europe has started, just two years before this executive order by the president in 1948:
July 26, 1948: President Truman signs Executive Order 9981, which states, “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.” The order also establishes the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services.
By that time, this young man was back in the United States, never returning to Georgia on a permanent basis ever again. The reason why? Racism. The racist south had left an impression on him that ate at the core of his soul. He had seen the world, experienced new things, and even achieved a sense of respect from the Europeans he helped liberate. There was no way he was going back into that cesspool of bigotry and humiliation of the south.
He went north to Detroit, joined a church, got married, had three children, moved many of his siblings north, grew a business previously own by his brother, help others, became a deacon in his church, made the trustee board, got his high school diploma, and became a respected man in his community. By the way, he was shot and killed in his grocery store on November 29th 1973.
The irony is that he went and fought in a war that over 40 million died in and survived, survived the great depression, survived Jim Crow south, survived and thrived after loosing a father at the age of 13, only to loose his life while minding his own business is, shall I say, a crying shame.
Yet, the picture above only tells of a split second in history, a moment in time, an after thought, something to be remembered by a few if not one on the whole planet of 6 billion. Who is this person? Well for the first 12 years of my life, he was and still is, my father, the heavyweight champion of all fathers. The only hero I have ever needed…