Dr. Cole and NCNW Pay Tribute to U.S. Armed Services on Veterans Day


Beginning in 1942, at the height of World War II, long before most U.S. industries, schools and places of business were de-segregated, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, NCNW's founder, made a point of touring military bases where Black women were quartered and reporting on the unequal conditions she found.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune

In March, 1948, she and leaders of 19 other civil rights organizations signed the Declaration of Negro Voters, which called for the abolition of every vestige of discrimination in the armed services. Later that year, Bethune personally encouraged President Truman to sign Executive Order 9981, which created the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Forces and eventually led to desegregation of the military.

Today we pause to pay tribute to veterans of military service - for their bravery, their skill and their patriotism.

Like many of us, you have likely used this expression to greet a member of the United States Armed Forces: "Thank you for your service." Those who volunteer to guarantee our security and freedom from threats abroad surely deserve our deep gratitude and profound respect.

But they deserve much more. They deserve to serve with dignity and equal opportunity for advancement without regard for gender, race, religion, color or sexual orientation. They deserve to serve a nation that practices the democratic values that service members courageously defend abroad.

While the U.S. military officer corps has similar levels of racial diversity as the general population, those with higher ranks-generals in the air force, army, and marine corps, and admirals in the coast guard and navy-are disproportionately white. Today, racial and ethnic diversity decrease in the upper echelons of the military.

NCNW agrees with chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who testified before Congress on July 9, 2020, "We must thoughtfully examine our institution and ensure it is a place where all Americans see themselves represented and have equal opportunity to succeed, especially in leadership positions." Let us continue to issue the call that Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and other civil rights leaders issued in 1948 to "end every vestige of discrimination in the armed services."

The National Council of Negro Women pays homage to our Veterans, the women and men of our Armed Forces.


Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Ph.D.National Chair and 7th President