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6th-Grader Wins African American History Essay Contest

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2002 – Sixth-grader Shallah Marshall said he researched African American history in libraries and received help and encouragement from his parents to write the award-winning African American History Month essay in the annual DoD-sponsored competition.

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David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, presents African American History Month essay-writing contest winner, Shallah A. Marshall, a DoD certificate after the sixth grader read his essay during DoD's African American History Month observance. The annual event in the Pentagon was held Feb. 21, 2002. Photo by Rudi Williams

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Marshall, 12, of John Tyler Elementary School in Washington, read the essay during the Feb. 21 DoD African American History Month observance at the Pentagon. He received a Defense Department certificate and a $100 savings bond.

Marshall used the month's DoD theme, "The African American Legacy: Contributions and Service in America's Defense," as the title for his essay. The national theme is, "The Color Line Revisited: Is Racism Dead." Here is his award-winning essay:

African Americans have contributed to our nation's defense in many ways and places and in every major United States war. Even as slaves, men and women fought and helped in the Civil War risking their lives for freedom from slavery.

The Buffalo Soldiers, a segregated unit, built forts and maintained order in the West. They guarded the Mexican border during the Spanish American War. Their leader eventually became the Army's first African American general, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr.

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black flying unit, which served and saved many lives during World War II. Captain Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. headed this group. He later became the first African American Air Force general.

Even after all that African Americans were doing in defense of this nation, they were still mistreated and in segregated units until President Truman issued an order in 1948 to integrate the military.

African Americans have had a difficult time gaining respect and receiving the awards that they deserve. Some have died before receiving the medals and honors they earned. Others are receiving honors now in their old age.

The contributions of African Americans in the defense of our nation have been many and very important in the freedom of our country. We now have African American four-star generals, admirals, and commanders and hold many other positions of high rank. The highest rank in the military has been held by an African American, General Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

We will continue to serve our country and to defend the rights of people here and abroad. It is everyone's job to defend freedom.

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DoD Holds African American History Month Observance

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