On Sept. 25, 1861, for the first time, the Union Navy allowed Blacks to enlist for service during the Civil War.
Many were former slaves who risked their lives to escape from plantations and fight for the Union. A total of eight African-American sailors were awarded the U.S. Medal of Honor award for their courage in battle.
It wasn't until February 1944 that the Navy commissioned its first African-American officers. Previously, Blacks were barred from the Navy completely or allowed to enlist only as mess cooks.
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