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African Americans have always played a significant role in the American war effort. Since before the American Revolution, African Americans served in the forces tasked with protecting the colonies and, later, the republic. Despite years of supposed racial exclusion prior to the Civil War, a constant labor shortage in volunteers and the needs of conflict brought African Americans into not just the nonmilitary affairs of wartime but into the services themselves. After the Civil War, African Americans in the U.S. military experienced Jim Crow segregation, albeit to varying degrees. Although President Harry Truman’s issuance of Executive Order 9981 in 1948 was intended to end segregation within the armed services, it could not affect the nation’s greater social inequalities that the services mirrored. Issues of disproportionate ...

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