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Today’s blog was written by Kate Palm, summer intern at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland and graduate student at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science


Dr. Ambrose Caliver (1894-1962) was a national leader in the twentieth-century field of black education who spent over thirty years in the U. S. Office of Education.

In contrast to the recently profiled civil and gay rights activist, Bayard Rustin (1912-1987), Caliver influenced American policy from the inside.  He was the first African American to receive a permanent appointment to the Federal service on a professional level. Caliver entered the U. S. Office of Education in 1930 as the first Senior Specialist in the Education of Negroes Division, thus becoming the Specialist for Higher Education of African Americans and the Adviser on Related Problems in 1946.  He continued to climb the ladder, as he was promoted to Assistant to the Commissioner (Program Development & Coordination Branch) in 1950 and later Chief of the Adult Education Section in 1955.

Born a southerner in Saltsville, Virginia, Caliver’s pursuit of education took him around the country.  After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Knoxville College in 1915, a diploma in industrial arts (cabinet making) from the Tuskegee Institute in 1916, and a degree in personnel management from Harvard University in 1918, he went on to earn a master’s degree in education from the University of Wisconsin in 1920, and a Ph.D. in Education from Columbia University’s Teacher’s College in 1930.  He began his career as an assistant principal in Rockwood, Tennessee and later taught at Fisk University, where he rose to become the university’s first African American dean in 1927.  Throughout his lengthy career in education, Caliver continued to teach and traveled widely for conferences and was also called upon frequently for advice and guidance from private organizations.

The RG 12 Office Files of Ambrose Caliver, ca. 1946 – 1962 series (NAID 731142) contains correspondence, memoranda, minutes of meetings, proceedings of conferences, speeches, articles, and reports related to his work on various literacy initiatives, adult education issues, and improving education for black Americans.

In the years following WWII, the U. S. government considered universal military training as one way to ensure that an adequately educated and prepared force could be mobilized in the event of a conflict.  As the Office of Education’s Specialist for Higher Education of Negroes and Adviser on Related Problems, Caliver advised on problems affecting minority groups.  One topic of interest was the effect that universal military training would have on black Americans, as can be seen in a memorandum to him dated March 21, 1947 in connection with a telephone conversation.

Memo to Caliver from T. E. Davis, dated March 21, 1947 relating to the "Committee on Universal Military Training, 1947-48"  (NAID 731142)

Memo to Caliver from T. E. Davis, dated March 21, 1947 relating to the “Committee on Universal Military Training, 1947-48″ (NAID 731142)

This series also contains records touching upon a variety of other topics and themes, such as the wide-reaching effects of the world’s entry into the nuclear age following World War II.  Caliver was serving on the Interdivisional Committee on Adult Education in 1947, when it submitted a project statement proposing a project intended to “utilize the resources of public education to help people throughout the United States understand what the release of atomic energy may mean in their own lives, and what their individual responsibilities are with respect to the use of this tremendous new power.”


In the early 1950s, Caliver also served on committees concerning military-related issues, such as student deferment from service for educational reasons, as can be seen in a report dated October 31, 1950 titled “Postponement of Induction of Students.”


The series also contains correspondence, which in some cases show the wide variety of persons seeking the benefit of Caliver’s knowledge and expertise during his long tenure at the Office of Education.  One such item is an April 4, 1949 letter from Dean Erwin N. Griswold of Harvard Law School in which Griswold seeks Caliver’s views on how to make it possible for top black students to attend schools similar to Harvard Law School and to encourage such students to turn such training to the benefit of their communities.


Some of what could be considered Caliver’s most significant work occurred early in his career at the Office of Education.  Caliver’s efforts were instrumental in a number of projects that served to provide data that make plain some of the inequalities that existed in twentieth-century American education and opportunities for black Americans.


For additional records related to Caliver’s work, see the following series:

  • Survey Materials Relating to the National Survey of the Education of Teachers, 1930-1932 (NAID 731180)
  • Manuscripts of Survey Reports from the National Survey of the Education of Teachers, 1932-1933 (NAID 731185)
  • Records Relating to Personnel Matters for the National Survey of the Education of Teachers, 1930-1933 (NAID 731188)


This record of the week was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist and Kevin Bradley, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland


In 1941, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt demanding that African Americans be used in roles other than messmen in the US military. The momentum of the NAACP and the black community forced President Roosevelt to deal with the issue of discrimination against African Americans in the Armed Services during World War II. Although, the US Navy was reluctant to admit African Americans, it decided under pressure, to allowed two of its vessels be manned by nearly all-black crews. RG 24 Logbooks of U. S. Navy Ships and Stations, 1941-1978 (NAID 594258) consist of chronological entries documenting the daily activities of a commissioned Navy ship, including the daily occurrences on board the USS Mason and PC-1264, which had mostly all-black crews.

USS Mason at the Boston Naval Yard (NAID 6210481)

USS Mason at the Boston Naval Yard (NAID 6210481)


The USS Mason (DE-529) was commissioned on March 20, 1944, with a crew of 150 African-American enlisted men and six officers. The vessel was part of the Evarts-class destroyer escort, with the responsibility of providing protection for other naval vessels in the Atlantic Ocean.

The USS Mason was involved in several convoys across the Atlantic Ocean during the war. A few of the escorts included journeys to Belfast, Ireland and Plymouth, England. On one particular convoy in the Atlantic, the USS Mason was damaged during a severe storm in 1944. The African-American crew repaired the ship and was able to continue with their voyage. These men did not received any letters of commendation for this act until 1994. Beginning on December 17, 1944, the USS Mason joined with the USS TF-64 on a tour to Oran, Algeria. Below are the deck log pages showing the activities during this journey.

The USS Mason was decommissioned on October 12, 1945 and sold for scrap.


Crew of the PC-1264 salute the American Flag (NAID 535785)

Crew of the PC-1264 salutes the American Flag (NAID 535785)

The USS PC-1264 was commissioned on April 25, 1944, with 53 African-American crew members. It was a PC-461 class submarine chaser built for military engagement during World War II. The mission of this naval vessel was to destroy German U-boats off the East Coast of the U.S. Below of the deck log pages of the first day of the PC-1264.

With missions along the East Coast, the PC-1264 had to stop at various ports along the way. The vessel experienced some difficulty docking in southern ports due to racial discrimination and the Jim Crow culture. Despite these challenges, the mostly black crew of the PC-1264 completed many convoys from New York to Cuba or Key West. Below are the deck logs documenting one of the convoys.

During the course of the PC-1264, there were several white men in command of the submarine chaser. On May 2, 1946, Ensign Samuel L. Gravely, Jr. reported to duty on board the PC-1264. Although, the vessel was placed out of service, Gravely became the only African American to command the PC-1264. The PC-1264 was decommissioned on February 7, 1946 and is currently at the Whitte Brothers Marine Scrap Yard in New York. Below are the deck log pages signed by Gravely.

The performances of the USS Mason and PC-1264 forced the Navy to reevaluate its discriminatory policies towards African Americans. Both vessels received letters of commendations for their service during World War II.

Today’s blog was written by Mary Kate Eckles, summer intern at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland and a liberal arts student at St. John’s College

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963) was one of the leading academics on black life in the United States. He was a historian, sociologist, educator and the first African American to receive a Ph. D. from Harvard University. Du Bois was known for his progressive works on black life, which included The Philadelphia Negro: A Social Study (1899) and Souls of Black Folks (1903).

In 1884, Carroll D. Wright, a statistician, became the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He planned to perform a large scale study on the working conditions of African Americans and wanted the assistance of Du Bois, who was known for his work on black life and the struggles of African Americans. The RG 257 Copies of Letters Sent 1889-1906 (NAID 7216243) series contains correspondences between Commissioners Wright and Charles P. Neill with Du Bois concerning various possible studies on black life at the turn of the twentieth century.

Under Wright, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published nine researched studies on the work and life of African Americans. When Du Bois first started working with the Bureau, he proposed several studies to Wright. Only one was accepted and received funding upon completion. The first study was the “The Negroes of Farmville, Virginia: A Social Study” (1898), which became the model for many of the Bureau’s black studies to follow. By 1901, when the first correspondences in the series were written, the Bureau had published seven different studies on the working conditions and lives of African Americans. Du Bois also contributed two other studies to the Bureau. These were “The Negro in the Black Belt: Some Social Sketches” (1899) and “The Negro Landholder of Georgia” (1901).

In 1905, Commissioner Wright retired and was replaced by Charles P. Neill, who was less inclined to see the need for studies on the working conditions of African Americans. After some delay, Neill gave $1,250 to Du Bois for his final study, which included a complete canvass of the 6,000 families in Lowndes County. By 1906, Du Bois requested assistance for the extension of his study to include white laborers in Lowndes County. Neill sent him two agents from the Bureau to help with the research. By the end of the correspondences, the study on Lowndes County is incomplete. It is, however, finished in 1907, and sent to the Bureau where it was not published, but rather destroyed for being too controversial. Du Bois was disgusted by this move and discontinued his association with the Bureau. Under Commissioner Neill, the Bureau did not publish another study on the working conditions and lives of African Americans.

In Celebration of LGBT Pride Month

The post was written by Dr. Tina Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland


Bayard Rustin was a believer in non-violence, a socialist, a civil rights organizer, and an openly gay black man. He was born on March 17, 1912 in West Chester, Pennsylvania and raised by his maternal grandparents, who exposed him to the Quaker Religion and civil rights activities and organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Rustin attended Wilberforce University in Ohio and Cheyney State Teachers College in Pennsylvania. He was involved with several student organizations, including the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.

This portrait of Bayard Rustin was taken on April 5, 1968 during a meeting between civil rights leaders and President Lyndon B. Johnson after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Serial #: A6015-23)

This portrait of Bayard Rustin was taken on April 5, 1968 during a meeting between civil rights leaders and President Lyndon B. Johnson after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Serial #: A6015-23)


Rustin played a major role in the civil rights and equality movements of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. He was active in the Young Communist League, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Rustin was instrumental in organizing, coordinating, and marketing the 1963 March on Washington, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech.


In 1944, Rustin was sentenced to three years in federal prison for failing to report for the physical examination under the Selective Service Act during World War II. Rustin, who strongly believed in nonviolence, was a conscientious objector against the war. The Bureau of Federal Prisons, RG 129, Notorious Offenders Files, 1919-1975 (NAID 580698) contains records related to Rustin’s time in Ashland Federal Correctional Institute in Kentucky. The file unit Rustin, Bayard (NAID 18558235) relates to his various activities in federal prison. Included in the file unit are letters and telegrams sent by fellow activists and religious mentor A. J. Muste. The file unit also contains allegations of homosexual behavior, defiance, and attempts to organize other inmates around the issues of  racial discrimination and segregation, as seen in the many disciplinary reports filed by prison officials.

Bayard Rustin passed away on August 24, 1987. He received numerous awards and accolades for his work in the civil rights and gay communities. Some of these honors include several buildings and LGBT organizations named after him. Rustin was posthumously given honorary membership in Delta Phi Upsilon, a fraternity for gay and bisexual men of color and in 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Other file units and items at the National Archives and Presidential Libraries related to Bayard Rustin include:

  • Focus on Bayard Rustin (NAID 2812560) from the series Sound Recordings of Historical Radio Broadcasts, World War II Government Documentaries, and Popular Radio Shows, 1906-1993 (NAID 1487762)
  • Rustin, Bayard (NAID 6095297) from the series Janet McMahon’s Newspaper Columnist Files, 1977-1981 (NAID 6094325)
  • Black Photographs- Martin Luther King, Sr., Coretta Scott King and Bayard Rustin (NAID 6119543) from the series Marc Henderson’s Subject Files, 1977-1981 (NAID 609638)
  • Chicago, [Illinois] – 157-717-Sub A-v.4 [Classification – Civil Unrest] — Bayard Rustin (NAID 5575056) from the series Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Case Files, 1957-1978 (NAID 1487609)
  • Schoolhouse: Bayard Rustin (NAID 107741) from the series Audio Recordings of the “Forum” Radio Program, 1940-1982 (NAID 106531)

On Thursday, June 25, 2015, the Stonewall Employee Affinity Group and the Afro-American History Society at the National Archives will show the film Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin at 11:30 am in Lecture Room D at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

Today’s blog was written by genealogist Renée K. Carl


As a genealogist with a background in cultural anthropology, I relish the research project that allows me to put information about a family into the context of the times. When a genealogist in Canada put out a call for assistance on a project regarding his ancestor’s role in the War of 1812, I took up the challenge, as he wanted to know who his ancestor was with, what he was doing, where and when events happened, in other words, anything and everything I could find.

The War of 1812 was, in many ways, a naval war. Many ships were captured by both sides, and the United States and Great Britain both employed the use of privateers to expand the reach of their navies. The warring countries also had to create a system with which to hold and exchange the many prisoners that resulted from the capture of vessels. Men, known as agents, worked in various port cities to secure the release and exchange of prisoners. The system needed careful record-keeping to track prisoner exchange, which eventually resulted in a document that is located in the Registers of British Prisoners of War, 1812–1815 (NAID 1807650) series, from Record Group 45 Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library.

The researcher in Canada asked me to find the names of all the 25 men aboard a British-flagged merchant vessel captured by the US Navy. The prisoner registers are in two volumes, with the first volume much larger than the second. Entries are mostly in alphabetical order, but only by the first letter of the surname. The entries are not in date order, and there are entries also placed in an appendix, plus a continuation of the appendix as entries for some letters in volume two. Looking for a man’s name means checking through many handwritten lines, and to be thorough, reviewing nearly every page in both volumes. At the back of volume one, I came across a most curious, unbound, folded piece of a paper.

“Preserve these sheets they may be wanted” signed by J Beerce and then lower down on the page, and upside down, “List of Slaves not Entd in General List” (NAID 1807650)

“Preserve these sheets they may be wanted” signed by J Beerce and then lower down on the page, and upside down, “List of Slaves not Entd in General List” (NAID 1807650)

I unfolded the paper, and a list of 47 men appeared, some marked as slave, and some marked Negro. There are eight columns on the page, untitled, but they seem to follow the pattern elsewhere in the register: name, description of person, vessel on which they were captured, vessel by which they were captured, date of capture, where captured, where they were held, and finally, the date of what happened to them next, and what happened.

For example, James Baptiste, Seaman of the Sloop Searcher, captured by the Schooner Rapid in June 1813 off the coast of Belize. He was taken to New Orleans and on 29 July 1813, “Sold for the Benefit of the Captors.” Seven men were also sold on 29 July 1813 in New Orleans: James Baptiste, Thomas Clarke, Bristol Clarke, Sharper Forbes, Ranter Forbes, Thomas Forbes and Prince William Henry.

“Sold for the Benefit of the Captors”: that would be to benefit the war effort, to benefit the United States. The fate of others was “Sold by Order of the District Court.” Some died. And for some men, the information is blank, unknown. (NAID 1807650)

“Sold for the Benefit of the Captors”: that would be to benefit the war effort, to benefit the United States. The fate of others was “Sold by Order of the District Court.” Some died. And for some men, the information is blank, unknown. (NAID 1807650)

Upon careful examination, it seems that this sheet might have once been bound in the volume, but time had made the paper brittle and it was now loose. There were several other, similar sheets also in the back of volume one, but still bound. There remained one essential difference between the sheets: the slaves listed on the other sheets specifically mentioned that they had been delivered back to an agent.

Slaves to agent cropped (NAID 1807650)

Slaves to agent cropped (NAID 1807650)

So many questions. Who was J Beerce? What drove his decision to save this document? On that list of 47 men, why were some men marked Black, others Negro? How was it determined that some men were slaves? Were these men slaves from British colonies in the Caribbean? Were they escaped American slaves? How was it determined that certain men would be sold? And to whom were they sold and could their fate be traced?

As the list of questions in my mind grew, I took a deep breath at this research project that I didn’t know existed, but that I couldn’t pass up. I also realized that I needed to stop thinking like a genealogist and start think like an archivist, and think about the documents in the context of the Archives and the record group in which they were found.

End page prisoner tally detail (NAID 1807650)

End page prisoner tally detail (NAID 1807650)

The two volume register is almost certainly a copy of other lists. On the last page of volume one the same Mr. Beerce stated “This catelogue [sic] of British Prisoners of War has been completed as far as I could find materials in the office.” Signed, 9 May 1818. That would account for the semi-alphabetical order, and lack of date order. It might also explain why some letters of the alphabet ran over to the second volume. That the register is a copy quite likely explains the 47 men on a separate list at the end.

New questions arise: from what material did Mr. Beerce make the list? Who was Mr. Beerce? In what office did he work? Could any of those papers still exist? Would they have more information on these men? If so, where would I find the papers at the Archives?


[This blog is the first in a series as Renée Carl explores and shares her research on this document]



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