Friday, July 4, 2014

Oliver Law

Oliver Law, a 33-years-old  African American from Texas, became the first black commander of an American army. On June 12, 1937 Law was selected by a committee of three white officers to lead this integrated army.
Law’s not mentioned in school textbooks or social studies classes, and has not found a place in most college texts or history courses. But Law made his mark on world history in June 1937. He was among 90 African Americans who went  to help the Spanish Republic during its Civil War.
In Spain life was different for African Americans. “I can rise according to my worth, not my color,” Law said. After the Lincoln Brigade’s first battle at Jarama, Law’s courage was rewarded with a promotion to lieutenant. Next he was put in charge of a machine-gun company. Then Lincoln Brigade Commander Marty Hourihan recommended him for officers’ school.
A committee of three white Brigade officers voted to make Law a captain and their brigade commander. Steve Nelson, who had worked with him in Chicago, told why they picked Law: “He had the most experience and was best suited for the job.” Further, he was “the most acquainted with military procedures on the staff at the moment . . . he was well liked by his men . . . .”
“When soldiers were asked who might become an officer—ours was a very democratic army—his name always came up. It was spoken of him that he was calm under fire, dignified, respectful of his men and always given to thoughtful consideration of initiatives and military missions.”
Law died at the Battle of Brunete on July 9, 1937.

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