Black Archives pays homage to U.S. veterans

Murrell Dawson has witnessed several students having to leave campus to serve their country as members of the United State’s military.

Dawson, a professor of history at Florida A&M University and director of the Southeastern Regional Black Archives and Research Center, said she is concerned that many students do not fully understand the contributions made by veterans throughout America’s history, especially black soldiers and officers.

“I say first as a mother, then as a historian, human being and educator, thank you,” Dawson said, “to all those, especially the sometimes forgotten African-American soldiers, who served and fought in all capacities of military.”

On Nov. 1, as part of the University’s celebration of Veterans Day, the Black Archives opened its exhibit, “Forever Brave: a Salute to American Veterans, Past and Present,” which features memorabilia of blacks in the military from the Revolutionary War to the war in Iraq. The exhibit contains medals, pictures, publications and other military artifacts.

Dawson said she is overjoyed with the exhibit’s potential to touch those who visit it, and said she is further excited that the exhibit will serve as a “teaching tool.”

“For our students, it is an educational resource and offers information about America and historically international events,” Dawson said. “The exhibit is set up where even the youngest of citizens can understand.”

In addition to the exhibit, FAMU will host its annual reef-laying ceremony that Lt. Col. B.K. Haynes said is “a memorial to our fallen comrades. It’s for those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

This year’s ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. Nov. 10 at the Eternal Flame.

Master Sgt. Thomas Strickland said the reef laying ceremony will feature a joint color guard of the Army ROTC, Navy and Marines.

“I am pleased and thankful that the University is recognizing Veterans Day,” said Strickland, who has served 20 years in the military and is in active duty with the U.S. Army. “I think all Universities and government agencies should recognize Veterans Day to honor the men and women who have served.”

Haynes, a retired military veteran of more than 20 years, and an adjunct professor at FAMU who has served in the Gulf War and the war in Iraq, said like Dawson, he is concerned that many Americans do not truly understand the sacrifices service members make.

“Wearing a yellow ribbon is ok, but we can do more like volunteer, or shake a soldier’s hand to simply say thank you,” Haynes said. “Whether you agree with the politics, we are showing support for our troops, not the government and politics.”

Haynes said he appreciates the FAMU administration and ROTC program for continuing the laying of the reef ceremony to honor the soldiers, those living as well as those who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Regarding the Black Archives’ exhibit, Dawson said memorabilia was gathered from veterans who either donated the items themselves or whose items were donated by members of their family.

The exhibit also includes historical items from the Black Archives rare books collection, pamphlets and other artifacts from its “Blacks in the Military” holdings, which were collected under the administration of the late James Eaton, the center’s founder. The exhibit runs until December.

Dawson said, “It is our mission, charge, and responsibility to make sure these gallant men and women are saluted, and that is what we all should do.”

In addition to the on-campus activities, the city will host a Veteran’s Day Parade on Friday in downtown Tallahassee to salute America’s soldiers.

For more information about FAMU and Black Archives events, call the University’s public affairs office at (850) 599-3413 or the Black Archives at (850) 599-3020.

Contact Carla Williams at