For years there has been a gap in military history when it comes to the contributions of African-American men and women.
The Maryland Historical Society along with the Public History program at Stevenson set out on a mission to help bridge that gap. They put together an exhibit that hopes to educate, enlighten and uncover hidden history.
“The exhibit is going to travel the area of the regionally Chesapeake for approximately the next three years, and we want to get it into public libraries, places where people will be gathering, transportation centers, Union Station, places like that, so that the public at large can learn our shared history,” said Glenn T. Johnston, the Chair of Public History at Stevenson University. “The vast majority of stories – we tell 63 stories in the 38 panels of this exhibit – are relatively unknown to most people at this time.”
One of those stories now coming to light is that of Louis Diggs. Diggs served more than 20 years in the military and now writes and archives history for generations to come.
“Just when I turned 18, I decided to join a black military unit from Baltimore, the Maryland National Guard,” said Diggs. "People just don’t know about this black unit. Been there since 1883, and they accepted one company called the Monumental City Guard."
Diggs says his battalion was sent to Korea in 1950, and that’s where he saw his black unit separated from all the others.
“I thought the army was desegregated to be honest with you, “Diggs said. “That wasn’t so. It was highly segregated. We didn’t get integrated until 1951 or ’52, but they separated us from our battalion. We did exactly what we were supposed to do but we where not treated right as blacks. They wouldn’t give us decent food, couldn’t stay in their compound where there was security, winter time you slept under the truck and summer time you slept on top.”
In 1952 things began to change.
“When they began to integrate the units, you went to bed all black or all white and you woke up the next morning and you were almost 50-50. It didn’t matter,” Diggs said. “Everybody was watching everybody’s back.”
For more stories like Diggs’, look out for the “In Freedom's Name“ exhibit as it travels throughout Maryland.
The exhibit is the largest of its kind and covers more than 400 years of history.