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19551955- 1975: The Vietnam War

Photograph of Purple Heart Medal

Purple Heart Medal Bestowed on Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton, 1952

A black and white photograph of two soldiers, in military fatigues, perched on the edge of the windshield, boots resting on the jeep's hood.

Two American Soldiers Sitting on a Jeep in Vietnam, ca. 1967

The Politics of War

Photograph of Purple Heart Medal

Purple Heart Medal Bestowed on Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton, 1952

A black and white photograph of two soldiers, in military fatigues, perched on the edge of the windshield, boots resting on the jeep's hood.

Two American Soldiers Sitting on a Jeep in Vietnam, ca. 1967

The 1960s saw the first major combat deployment of the integrated military, to one of the most-debated wars in American history: Vietnam. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. condemned the war as "unjust, evil, and futile" and called it "a white man’s war, a Black man’s fight" due to the large number of African American soldiers sent to Vietnam. African Americans contended with fighting and dying on behalf of a country that also denied them basic human rights. Muhammad Ali expressed these sentiments when he famously said, "No Viet Cong ever called me nigger." African Americans who did serve in Vietnam served with soldiers who donned KKK robes, burned crosses and raised Confederate flags. In addition, symbols of unity, kinship, and survival among Black troops, such as the DAP (Dignity and Pride) handshake, were banned by the military.