"Fort Carson's Racial Harmony Council: Ethnic Groups At Army Post Are 'Keeping It Together'."
Commander's Digest. Vol. 12, no. 2. Washington, D.C. GPO, May 18, 1972. P. 6-7.
SuDoc No.: D2.15/2
The Fort Carson Racial Harmony Council was created after a conflict at Fort Carson, Colorado,
between African-American soldiers and white military police. The Council was responsible for
creating a "safety valve" for tensions on the base. Some of the methods used to
achieve this included the creation of an "International House" that served ethnic
food and provided alternative entertainment. A clothing store called "Ebony to Ivory"
was established, courses on African-American Studies were introduced, and national speakers
such as Julian Bond, Leroi Jones, Roberto "Corky" Gonzales, and Dick Gregory were
invited to speak at the base.
Fort Carson's Racial Harmony Council: Ethnic Groups At Army Post Are
'Keeping It Together'.
In the hot summer of 1970, racial tensions were high at Ft. Carson, Colorado. A confrontations
took place between black soldiers and white military police at the huge Army post near Colorado
Springs. From that conflict emerged Fort Carson's Racial Harmony Council.
The council was established to identify and solve race-related problems before they erupted
into violence. Unlike other post councils, the council is appointed, not elected.
The biggest problem, says Major General John C. Bennett, Commander of the post and the resident
Fourth Division, "was to get enough black militants on the Racial Harmony Council."
But, he adds, "We got them. We don't put Uncle Toms on the council."
Some members of the council view themselves not so much as "black militants" but
rather as activists who "wanted something that could work within the system" but
that would not just "white wash" the problems. The first order of business for
the group, following its establishment, was developing common objectives.
"When we catch things, we are quick to voice them, and action is taken to stop them,"
says Specialist Five Bill Manning, a former co-chairman of the council. "We are sort of
like a pressure valve for the brothers. When they have a problem, they can come to us and let
off their tensions and know that we will find a way to try to solve the problem."
The council has launched a number of innovations. It has been in the forefront of setting up
seminars for individual units, and arranging for full-time counselors. At a time when
"black" items were non-existent in post exchanges, it advised the PX on items needed
and wanted by blacks. It initiated classes in black and chicano history, and suggested books
on racial problems, for the post's library.
A special club, designed to appeal to minority soldiers, was established in 1971 and named the
International House. It specializes in soul food and in Mexican, Chinese and other ethnic dishes
as well as standard fare. Appearing frequently at the club are bands featuring a variety of music
and black entertainers. The post exchange cafeteria also features a special soul food main dish
Other innovations inspired by the Racial Harmony Council were "Ebony to Ivory," a men's
clothing store, and a book store stocking a large selection of books on minority life-style
Two education courses in black studies are now offered to Ft. Carson soldiers by local
colleges, and the chairman of the black studies department at one college has been a guest
speaker at council meetings and has discussed racial problems with officers at a "Commander's
Call." Correspondence courses in black history are also available.
Black history is an important element in the racial harmony program, according to council
members. "We think that a man should know some of the contributions which his people
have made to society," one member said during a recent "rap session."
"Knowing some of the good things which he can be proud of helps to build a sense of
pride and often eliminates an inferior feeling which a lot of the brothers have."
The council is not composed solely of blacks, however. There are chicano and white members who
are equally involved in "keeping it together." Working closely together they have
approached the key problem - the problem of communication - in a number of different ways.
Rap sessions with Ft. Carson's commanding general is a major avenue which enables the council
to assist in easing tensions. Discussions of current problems are frank. The Army's Chief of
Staff, General William C. Westmoreland, sat in on one of the sessions and said that he came
away with a better understanding of the problems which exist.
The council also launched a national speakers program, featuring such well-known personalities
as Julian Bond, the black legislator from Georgia; Leroi Jones, the playright; Roberto
"Corky" Gonzales, the chicano crusader for migrant farm workers, and actor and
civil rights worker Dick Gregory.
"People respond to prestige names and publicity," said a former member of the
council. "For a long time the audience has heard us saying what the speakers say, but
the speakers provide credibility. The next time we come around, more people are willing to
listen to us."
Another council innovation was a series of three black plays, presented in the post little
theater. Members of the council also brief all newly-assigned personnel arriving at Ft.
Carson on the council's role and the services it offers.