Black Tradition of Arms
The history of gun ownership in the United States was dramatically different for African Americans. Since the beginning of the birth of the United States all citizens have had the option to exercise their free will in purchasing or not purchasing a gun for self defense and/or hunting. The exception to that rule was African Americans. Black Codes or laws were put into place in just about every State preventing African Americans from legally owning any type of firearm or weapon. These laws were used to oppress and control African-American populations, especially in the Southern States.
Below are historical figures from the Black Tradition of Arms. These are our ancestors that paved the way for us with their bravery and resolve!
Cathay Williams (September 1844 – 1893) was the first African-American woman to enlist, and the only documented to serve in the United States Army. She posed as a man under the pseudonym William Cathay despite the prohibition against women serving in the military.
On November 15, 1866, She was assigned to the 38th United States Infantry Regiment after she passed a cursory medical examination. Williams said, “… only two persons, a cousin and a particular friend, members of the regiment, knew that I was a woman. They never ‘blowed’ on me. They were partly the cause of my joining the Army. Another reason was I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends.”
Shortly after her enlistment, Williams contracted smallpox. Possibly due to the effects of smallpox and the effects of years of marching, she was frequently hospitalized. At the post where Cathay was stationed, the surgeon finally discovered she was a woman, and informed the post commander. She was discharged from the Army by her commanding officer, Captain Charles E. Clarke, on October 14, 1868. Cathay Williams is also the only known female Buffalo Soldier. Her determination to serve her country demonstrates the extraordinary feats women have accomplished attempting to live their lives as full-fledged citizens in the United States.