Black History Month

Celebrating Each Story

"I fought for my country, because I love my country"

Let one family’s story inspire you to deeper discussions around civil rights and patriotism, and how we can remember and honor heroes who may have experienced prejudice while dedicating their lives to our country. Download to get access to our full activity lesson plan.

Celebrating African American Heroes

Julian M. Kevianne

Fallen Hero’s Hometown: Detroit, MI

Branch of Service: U.S. Marine Corps

Rank: Sergeant

Sergeant Julian M. Kevianne joined the Marine Corps in 2009 and deployed in support of OEF from 2012 to 2013. He was promoted to sergeant in 2015. Kevianne was killed when his KC-130 aircraft crashed in Mississippi. He received two Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medals, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, among many other decorations and awards.

Everyone remembers Julian for his mustache, his glasses, and his distinctive voice. A general once told him that he sounded like “The Godfather.” He loved Star Wars. His call sign was “Lando.”

“I want people to remember Julian for his courage, his humility, and his kindness. He would give you the shirt off his back and help anyone at a moment’s notice. Everyone loved him, and no one ever had a bad word to say about him,” recalled his wife, Sherry Kevianne.


Age: 31

Date of Death: July 10, 2017

Karen Wagner

Fallen Hero’s Hometown: San Antonio, TX

Branch of Service: U.S. Army

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Lt. Colonel Wagner was assigned to the Pentagon as the medical personnel officer in the Office of the Army Surgeon General and Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel on 9/11. She had just returned to her desk after watching the second plane hit the World Trade Center on TV when flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

A natural athlete, Wagner played basketball and ran track in high school, but was known for her great sense of humor. That sense of humor continued throughout her time in the U.S. Army, even after facing adversity in the death of an infant daughter and a divorce. Wagner was known to still sing “Hey Baby, Que Paso” walking down the hall and she reMEd close to her U.S. Army family.

Wagner, nicknamed “Peanut,” grew up in the Army. She followed in her father, Bill Wagner’s footsteps, who served in the Army as a medic. The annual Army human resource officer leadership award is named in her honor. She is interred at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery.


Age: 40

Date of Death: September 11, 2001

Chadrick D. George

Fallen Hero’s Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Branch of Service: U.S. Army

Rank: Warrant Officer 1

Chadrick served in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Korea, Alaska, Germany, Fort Benning, and Fort Bragg.

Some of Chadrick’s best qualities were being a leader, motivator, and a true humanitarian. He loved people, sharing his knowledge and uplifting others.

What I would like for everyone to know about my son Chadrick is he was a great father who loved his children. He was an awesome son to me and was a number one supporter of his siblings, grandmother, and aunt, but most importantly he was my friend and I miss him dearly.


Age: 37

Date of Death: October 10, 2017

Origins of Black History Month

The origins of Black History Month can be traced back to the early 20th century. In 1926, historian Carter G. Woodson, along with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, announced the second week of February as “Negro History Week” in order to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The event was intended to promote awareness of African American contributions to history and to combat the widely held notion that Black people had no history worth studying.

Negro History Week became a popular annual observance and was officially recognized by the U.S. government in the 1970s when it was expanded to become Black History Month. President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Since then, Black History Month has been celebrated annually with various events and programs, including lectures, panel discussions, cultural events, and more. It has served as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for civil rights and the contributions of Black people to the history and culture of the United States and beyond.

Black History Month celebrates the achievements of African Americans and recognizes their contributions to society. Photo credit: Jeffry Willadsen. 2015. Everett, WA, USA.

Did you Know?

Facts about African Americans in the Military

  • Black service members have fought in every single American conflict, including the American Revolution.
  • As of 2020, Black Soldiers comprised approximately 21% of the active-duty Army, 15% of the Army National Guard, and 21% of the Army Reserve. Black Americans have served in the Army at a rate that is higher than their representation in the U.S. population.
  • Among the first U.S. regiments to arrive in France for World War 1 was the 369th Infantry, an all-black regiment known as the “Harlem Hellfighters.” They fought in France for a total of 191 days in combat, longer than any other American unit in WWI.

Tuskegee Airmen (circa May 1942 to Aug 1943) were the first Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps (now the U.S. Air Force) during World War II. They fought in Europe and North Africa and were known for their bravery and skill as fighter pilots. Photo credit: 1942. US Air Force.

The Montford Point Marines (above) were the first Black Marines in the U.S. Marine Corps. They trained at Camp Montford Point in North Carolina during World War II. These Marines broke down barriers and paved the way for future generations of African Americans in the Marine Corps. Photo credit: 1943. Lance Cpl. Kris Daberkoe. Camp Lejeune, NC, US

Famous African American Veterans

Colin Powell: Powell is a retired four-star general who served as the first Black U.S. Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. He also served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military position in the U.S. armed forces. Powell served in the U.S. Army for 35 years, rising through the ranks to become a general.

Doris Miller: Miller was a messman in the U.S. Navy who became a hero during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. He manned a machine gun and shot down several Japanese planes, despite having no formal training as a gunner. Miller was the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross.

Benjamin O. Davis Jr.: Davis was a pioneering African American officer in the U.S. Army Air Corps (now the U.S. Air Force). He became the first Black general officer in the Air Force, and he also served as the first African American general in any of the U.S. armed forces.


These are just a few examples of the many African American veterans who have made important contributions to the military and to American history.

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