POWER OF THE HERO IMAGE: THE UNIFORM, THE BLACK SOLDIER AND THE KU KLUX KLAN
Bair, Kevin M
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Abstract Societies have long associated the image of the military uniform with social power and heroic abilities. This iconic image has both psychological power for the wearer and for those who observed the uniformed person. In the 19th and 20th centuries, whites and blacks looked upon this image as a tool to implement change. Some sought personal improvement while others looked for social transformation. In both instances, blacks who chose to don the military uniform of the United States were seeking upward mobility from their present situation, while some whites wanting to maintain the country’s segregation status quo wore the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan; thus believing in a different socially created image of power. In this article, we argue that the cultural and psychological power of the military uniform cannot be underestimated, and that this image, when worn by black military personnel, such as Private Henry Johnson, Sergeant Isaac Woodard, and Sergeant Medgar Evers, was intimidating to a number of whites. Additionally, we believe that black military personnel, like Johnson, Woodard and Evers, helped to bring widespread awareness of the vast social injustice occurring in this country to the greater public. Furthermore, we state that the image of, belief in, and donning of, the military uniform by blacks during the 19th and 20th centuries caused the end of America’s oppressive segregation laws, not only in desegregating the military (1948), but also helping topple Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896), assisted in the verdict of Brown vs. The Board of Education (1954), aided in ending the Jim Crow laws (1877-1960’s), and helped to bring about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the 1965 the Voting Rights Act.