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Studying War

“I ain’t gonna study, war no more, ain’t gonna study war no more…”

 This determined folk song’s refrain was an emotional rallying cry during the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s. Today, it is ironic that many of the key players in what seems to be a personal matter that President Bush has with Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein are direct beneficiaries of the civil rights movement.

One of the goals of the civil rights movement was to provide African Americans with the opportunity to fully participate in any leadership aspect of American society. Some have exercised that opportunity by becoming leaders of what Dwight Eisenhower once called the “military industrial complex.” The African American officers featured in this edition’s cover story, by Phaedra Brotherton, have risen through the ranks of the military to head up colleges within the National Defense University.

African Americans’ involvement in the military has a long and complex history, ranging from Peter Salem’s heroic actions in the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775. During World Wars I and II, many Black soldiers, particularly those stationed abroad, experienced better treatment in places such as Europe, only to return home and face the brutal reality of race relations in this country, making them question what they were really fighting for. Nonetheless, the military has provided opportunities for many African Americans to advance and hold leadership positions. Even today, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) units have conspicuous prominence at many historically Black colleges.

Still, when pondering Martin Luther King Jr., the most recognized of all civil rights leaders, and his stand against the Vietnam War, each of us must come to grips with matters of personal conscience on the issues of career choices, the civil rights legacy, war and peace.

A great deal of how we formulate opinions about war and peace is based on what is communicated to us through the ever-changing world of broadcast, print and electronic media. In this edition, Cheryl D. Fields goes behind the scenes of Hampton’s new $10 million state-of-the-art school of journalism and communications to reveal how an extraordinary partnership with The Scripps Howard Foundation lead to its creation. How Hampton pulled off such a noteworthy coup is beneficially instructive in these times of economic contraction.

In Faculty Club, Kendra Hamilton previews one scholar’s assessment of the leadership role African Americans are assuming in American literary culture. University of Utah professor Wilfred D. Samuels’ new encyclopedia, A Gift of Story and Song, explores the diversity of 20th-century African American writers, both emerging and well known.

Speaking of writers and book origins, the earlier mentioned refrain “ain’t gonna study war no more” is actually taken from the most widely read book in history, The Bible. Isaiah 2:4 reads in part “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn (study) war no more.” Because a final decision on yet another major war is pending, it may be useful to take a deeper look into that scripture and others that define where we are in the stream of time.

But ultimately, whether we choose to study or not to study war should be a thoroughly informed matter of personal conscience.

Frank L. Matthews
[email protected]

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