NEW CUMBERLAND, Pa. –
“Always try to land on your back. Because if you are looking up, you can get up,” said Dr. Claiborne Douglass Haughton Jr., former Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Equal Opportunity and President of Haughton Group, LLC.
Haughton was the guest speaker at Defense Logistics Agency Distribution headquarters Feb. 26. He gave a speech not only entailing his own struggles and ultimate triumphs, through years of racial oppression and bigotry, but also the numerous examples from American history.
Opening remarks from Rear Adm. Kevin M. Jones, commanding officer DLA Distribution highlighted one of his own personal heroes, Doris “Dorie” Miller. Miller was an enlisted African-American sailor assigned as a mess attendant onboard the battleship USS West Virginia during the Pearl Harbor attack. For his heroic acts and bravery in saving lives and manning machine guns during the attack Miller was awarded the Navy Cross.
The Navy recently announced on Martin Luther King Jr Day, the newest aircraft carrier will be named the USS Dorie Miller. “It will be the first aircraft carrier named for an enlisted sailor, and the first named for an African American,” said Jones.
Haughton detailed a life that would teach him early on that overcoming adversity and oppression would be a major goal and focus.
Demonstrating he would not be deterred, Haughton, who also has cerebral palsy and blindness in one eye, would move within DLA to become part of the Equal Employment Opportunity department. The fight against adversity would not stop despite the move.
Despite facing discrimination based on race and disability Haughton would, in only 12 years, rise from GS-5 to GS-16 and become one of the first charter members of the Senior Executive Service at the Pentagon.
Through decades of service to his nation within DLA and the Department of Defense, Haughton would learn an important lesson that he imparted to all in attendance. “Eminent African-American historians such as Dr. John Hope Franklin and Dr. Mary F. Berry,” said Haughton “hold that the attainment of citizenship by Black Americans was not purely a gift of the spontaneous application of the principles of justice, but was won, in large part, through military contributions.” Indeed, as Haughton relayed selections of African-American contributions through the lens of strife and conflict engagements of the United States, it would become clear that despite racism, oppression, and the Jim Crowe era of American history, African-Americans would continue their proud and impressive history of military service.
Even in the face of racism and discrimination at home, African-Americans would, during World War II, devote their lives and efforts to fighting the racist philosophy of fascism abroad. Haughton cited a black newspaper of the time as having said “If we fight two wars, we can win them both. But if we fight either one alone, we can lose them.” The epitome of what Haughton described as “the double V campaign” of the era.
The Black History Month Event, made possible through the efforts of the DLA Distribution Multicultural Committee, also featured live performances from the Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church choir.
As their harmony echoed across the walls of the auditorium, singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, it became clear the lessons delivered that day were the beginning ground, a point of remembrance, to an ongoing fight against racism and oppression that we are all obliged to take in part in.