A big part of African-American history that is often overlooked or forgotten is the history of “The Golden Thirteen.” These thirteen young distinguished African-American men were the first commissioned and warrant officers in the United States Navy. The United States did not allow Blacks to serve beyond general services in Navy. Blacks were only allowed from 1893 to the end of World War I to join the Navy’s Messman’s or Steward’s branches, which kept Blacks segregated and they could not become commissioned officers. These men were often denied the privileges and respect routinely accorded white naval officers, they were given menial assignments unworthy of their abilities and training. In June 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the executive order (8802) that prohibited racial discrimination by any government agency.
There were sixteen members in the classed who passed the course, however, only twelve were commissioned in 1944. Those individuals were: #John Walter Reagan, #Phillip George Barnes, #Graham Edward Martin, Frank Ellis Sublett, Dalton Louis Baugh, Charles Bryd Lear, Jesse Walter Arbor, Dennis Denmark Nelson, James Edward Hair, Samuel Barnes, William Sylvester White, George Cooper, Charles Lear, was a warrant officer.
The U.S military was desegregated in 1948 under the leadership of President Harry S. Truman. There were about 100,000 African-American men serving in the U.S Navy. In 2006, ground was broken on a World War II memorial in North Chicago, Illinois to honor the Golden Thirteen and Dorie Miller.