African Americans in the Navy from the Revolutionary War to World War II
African Americans served on ships throughout the Navy during the Revolutionary War, usually in lower ranking jobs with the only exception being as ship pilots. After the Revolutionary War, they continued to serve with recruitment levels as a percentage of the overall force, which would go up and down, depending on both manpower needs and the circumstances. Many served in the Union Navy with eight being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The policy of inconsistent recruiting continued until the end of the Civil War. After the Civil War, the Navy reduced African American recruitment and limited the rates they could occupy to coal heaver, messman, steward, and cook. They were excluded from the officer corps. This policy remained in effect until after World War I. At which time, the Navy stopped recruiting African Americans completely until 1932. When they were allowed to serve again it was only in the rates of messman and steward and could not hold any position of authority.