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Today’s blog was written by Blossom Ojukwu, undergraduate education major at the University of Maryland, College Park

In the series Historical Files (NAID 566333) in RG 12 Records of the Office of Education is a special memorandum titled “The Social Adjustment of Negroes in the United States.” The document was submitted to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by the National Urban League (NUL) for Social Service among African Americans. The primary author, Eugene Kinckle Jones, Executive Secretary of the NUL, stated that the contents within the memorandum were objectively written summaries of important facts pertaining to the conditions and welfare of African Americans across the country. Jones respectfully adds “Too often when steps are taken to ameliorate social conditions Negroes are not given equitable consideration,” in order to encourage President Roosevelt to vigorously take into account the matters disclosed in this memorandum because it will assuredly further the welfare of the American people as a whole under his administration.

 

This memorandum was written by the National Urban League for Social Service among Negroes (headquartered in New York City) and presented to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on April 15, 1933. (NAID 566333)

This memorandum was written by the National Urban League for Social Service among Negroes (headquartered in New York City) and presented to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on April 15, 1933. (NAID 566333)

The memorandum contains twelve sections regarding the economic, social, educational, and health status of African Americans from 1900 to 1930. This blog will summarize the sections entitled: “The Population”, “Occupational Status”, “Education”, and “Recreation and Leisure.”

The Population

The African-American population in the North and Mid-West increased more than any other time in prerecorded history between the years 1920 and 1930 according to the NUL’s memorandum. This rapid increase was the result of the migration of African Americans from the South to the North. The main reason African Americans began to migrate to the North was due to urbanization. There was a growing need for workers in the industrial labor market because of a decrease in immigration due to World War I. In addition, many African Americans wanted to flee the Jim Crow South and racial violence associated with the region. Hence, the growth of the African-American population in cities such as New York, NY; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; Washington D. C.; Detroit, MI; and St. Louis, MO increased by 13.6 percent.

Occupational Status

The memorandum also stated that African Americans have contributed more labor per capita to the development of the United States. In 1930, African Americans made up 11.3 percent of the countries workforce, in spite of the fact that African Americans only made up 9.2 percent of the total population. In terms of women workers approximately one-fourth of all women fifteen years or older where employed, of that proportion 50 percent of them where African-American women. The ratio of employed married African-American women was three times greater than that of all women. In terms of child labor 240,000 of 667,000 employed children were African American. Child labor amongst African Americans was five times higher than that of any other racial group. In terms of agriculture this memorandum described African-American farmers as America’s principal peasant. African-American farmers owned and operated 30 percent of southern farms yet had to perform a great part of the hired labor and made very little profit.

After World War I, African Americans replaced immigrant labor in industrial jobs. Subsequently, allowing African Americans to rise to skilled and semi-skilled jobs. Unfortunately, this transition propelled numerous unfavorable obstacles for African Americans whom aspired to climb the industrial ladder. This memorandum summarizes these obstacles as:

  1. Living in the tradition of slavery
  2. Frequently, regardless of skill, African Americans were forced to begin at the bottom and seldom did their promotions follow the usual procedure.
  3. When there was prosperity and plenty of work, the opportunities were always at the bottom. In times of unemployment, the pressures on the “bottom” positions drove African Americans out of the industry.
  4. There were traditions of employment-“deadlines”- that limited the employment of African Americans.
  5. Labor unions limited their membership strictly to white citizens.
Cover page of "Fundamentals in the Education of Negroes" compiled and edited by Ambrose Caliver, Senior Specialist in the Education of Negroes in 1935.

Cover page of “Fundamentals in the Education of Negroes” compiled and edited by Ambrose Caliver, Senior Specialist in the Education of Negroes in 1935.

Education

The NUL’s memorandum stated that public school education for African-American children in the 1930s was a whole generation behind the public school education of white children. The expenditure per African-American child in 1928 was $8.86, which was a fourth of the expenditure made for white children. In some districts in the South, public schools for African Americans did not receive the amount paid in school taxes. Additionally, African-American schools were thirty days shorter than white schools, and African-American school teachers were paid three times less than white teachers. Transportation for African-American children to and from school was extremely negligible to say the least. Over 350,000 while students and less than 2,000 African-American students were transported to and from school. As a result these factors, statistics showed that 20 percent of African-Americans pupils were overaged by three or more years.

Higher education among African Americans was conducted chiefly by private institutions. In 1913, there were only 3 accredited African-American collegiate institutions. In 1930, there were more than 100 African American secondary institutions, and in 1932, there were nearly 20,000 African Americans in college but only about 1,500 degrees were granted.

Recreation and Leisure

The desire for recreational facilities was much larger than ending the exclusion of African Americans to public play grounds, parks, and theaters; rather it involved the attitude of the community toward African Americans. This memorandum cites a study in 1928 of African-American recreational facilities in 57 cities (40 northern and 17 southern). The study revealed that the inadequacy of recreational facilities for African Americans was one of the primary reasons African Americans had a reputation for committing crimes. The study explained that because African Americans had no other place to go, they would idle about the street and wander into vicious places because they could not find relaxation anywhere else.



Today’s Record was submitted by Jesse Wilinski, Archives Technician at the National Archives in Washington, D. C.

In the series Registers of British Prisoners of War, 1812-1815 (NAID 1807650) in RG 45 Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, are several volumes related to British Prisoners of War (POWs) captured during the War of 1812. In one of the volumes is a list of prisoners on a separate piece of paper. This list on one side states, “Preserve this Sheets they may be wanted,” and on the other side is a list of British POWs from privateers who happened to be black.

This list of black British POWs mentioned both the first and last names of the inmates and what became of them. Many of the black POWs were sold into slavery, mostly in the southern US. This list is very rare to the point that enslaved person upon being sold do not have their first and last names mentioned in record. The list also mentioned the POWs’ occupations.

 

Registers of British Prisoners of War (NAID 1807650)



Today’s blog was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

Most of the records that are held at the National Archives related to women in the US Navy, primarily focused on their involvement as WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). The few selected series contains photographs, moving images, and a few textual documents showcasing the experience of American women in the military during World War II. The records concentrate on WAVES activities in recruiting new members, in caring for wounded soldiers, and in participating in physical training. Sprinkled within the majority of the series related to WAVES activity, are a few photographs displaying black women who also served in the Navy.

"Pin-up girls at NAS Seattle, Spring Formal Dance. Left to right: Jeanne McIver, Harriet Berry, Muriel Alberti, Nancy Grant, Maleina Bagley, and Matti Ethridge." (NAID 520646)

“Pin-up girls at NAS Seattle, Spring Formal Dance. Left to right: Jeanne McIver, Harriet Berry, Muriel Alberti, Nancy Grant, Maleina Bagley, and Matti Ethridge.” (NAID 520646)

 

The selected photographs on the activities of black women in the US Navy came from Record Group 80 General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1798-1947 and Record Group 428 General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1947 to the present. These record groups contain textual documents, motion pictures, aerial photographs, and still pictures that relates to the administration of the United States Navy and the Marine Corps. The General Photographic File of the Department of Navy (NAID 558506), compiled between the years 1943 and 1958, documents the highlights of WAVES activity. This series contains photographs showcasing the achievements and contributions of women, including black women in the US Navy. In general during the heighten World War II and Vietnam War years, over 85,000 women; black, white, and others from different ethnic backgrounds served as air traffic controllers, artists, bakers, couriers, cryptologists, draftsmen, hospital corpsmen, lawyers, meteorologists, and translators.

Women were needed in all branches of the military to assist with the war effort. On July 30, 1942, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) became a division of the US Navy. This organization allowed thousands of women to enlist and it even commissioned several hundred others to supervise. WAVES served in several atypical fields including those in the aviation community, in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, in the medical professions, communications, intelligence, and in science and technology. Although, WAVES were able to serve in many fields that were once considered only for men, they still had to endure geographical restrictions. Their military activity was restricted only to duty in the continental US. WAVES during World War II were not allowed to serve aboard combat ships or in aircraft.

All women interested in serving in the WAVES had to adhere to several strict regulations. They had to be native-born American and at least 18 years old with a good character. They were required to have three references in support of their background. Women had to be at least 5 feet tall and at least 95 pounds with 20/20 vision (wearing corrective glasses was okay). Enlisted women needed two years of high school or business school and women interested in becoming an officer had to have a college degree or two years of college plus two years of acceptable business or professional experience.

Black women were not permitted to join the WAVES until late 1944. WAVES Director Mildred McAfee and Activist Mary McLeod Bethune encouraged Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal to push for the acceptance of black women into this program. As a result, the Navy trained roughly 1 black woman for every 36 white women enlisted in the WAVES, which was nearly 3%.

 

"Lt.(jg.) Harriet Ida Pickens and Ens. Frances Wills, first Negro Waves to be commissioned. They were members of the final graduating class at Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School (WR) Northampton, MA." (NAID 520670)

“Lt.(jg.) Harriet Ida Pickens and Ens. Frances Wills, first Negro Waves to be commissioned. They were members of the final graduating class at Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School (WR) Northampton, MA.” (NAID 520670)

 

In November 1944, Harriet Ida Pickens and Frances Wills graduated from the Naval Reserve Midshipmen’s School (Women’s Reserve) at Northampton, Massachusetts, and became the first African American WAVES officers. Pickens had worked as a public health administrator, who was encouraged by her father, William Pickens, one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), to join the WAVES. Wills, a social worker, joined the WAVES because she did not have any brothers to serve in the war effort and decided it was her duty to enlist. As commissioned officers, Wills taught naval history and administered classification tests and Pickens led physical training sessions at the Hunter Naval Training Station in Bronx, N.Y., the main training facility for enlisted WAVES recruits.

 

"Inspecting a Grumman Wildcat engine on display at the U.S. Naval Training School (WR) Bronx, NY, where she is a `boot' is WAVE Apprentice Seaman Frances Bates." (NAID 520638)

“Inspecting a Grumman Wildcat engine on display at the U.S. Naval Training School (WR) Bronx, NY, where she is a `boot’ is WAVE Apprentice Seaman Frances Bates.” (NAID 520638)

 

The above photograph shows Seaman Francis Bates inspecting a Grumman Wildcat engine at the US Naval Training School in Bronx, New York during World War II. The Apprentice Seaman is the second lowest enlisted rank in the US Navy. Their duties usually consist of general deck maintenance, line-handing, and navigation.

 

"Hospital Apprentices second class Ruth C. Isaacs, Katherine Horton and Inez Patterson (left to right) are the first Negro WAVES to enter the Hospital Corps School at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD." (NAID 520634)

“Hospital Apprentices second class Ruth C. Isaacs, Katherine Horton and Inez Patterson (left to right) are the first Negro WAVES to enter the Hospital Corps School at National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD.” (NAID 520634)

 

Hospital Apprentices Second Class Ruth C. Isaacs, Katherine Horton, and Inez Patterson were the first black WAVES to enter the Hospital Corps School at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Hospital Apprentices were enlisted medical specialists. They served as the primary medical caregivers for sailors. They also served as assistants in the prevention and treatment of disease and injuries.

 

"Cmdr. Thomas A. Gaylord, USN (Ret'd), administers oath to five new Navy nurses commissioned in New York..." (NAID 520618)

“Cmdr. Thomas A. Gaylord, USN (Ret’d), administers oath to five new Navy nurses commissioned in New York…” (NAID 520618)

 

In March 1945, Phyllis Mae Daley became the first black commissioned nurse to serve in the US Navy. Navy nurses played a very important role during World War II. Their numbers grew to nearly 2,000 after the attack on Pearl Harbor. With the great demand for qualified nurses, the Navy was successful at recruiting the best and most capable nurses available. Overall, Nurses during World War II were viewed as extremely important to the war effort. Their primary responsibility was to care for ill and wounded sailors. Several outstanding nurses were trained in surgery, orthopedics, anesthesia, and helped men to understand and to manage Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or shell-shock as it was called then. Unlike the WAVES, Navy nurses service outside the continental US. They were sent to New Caledonia, the Solomons Islands, New Zealand, Australia, and New Guinea in the Pacific Theatre, and naval nurses served in England, Italy, and Northern Africa in the European Theatre.

Following World War II, racial and gender discrimination, as well as segregation continued in the US military. On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which eliminated segregation, quotas and discrimination in the armed forces. The new affirmative action policies and changing attitudes towards race and gender allowed black women to pursue careers in the US Navy. During the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts, black women, along with women from other racial backgrounds played a crucial role in the medical fields, in technology, in intelligence, and in combat.

 

Service School Command, San Diego, California...Radioman third class Denita G. Harvey, left, of Los Angeles, California, checks a student's typing performance for accuracy following a timed drill. Miss Harvey is an instructor at the Navy Radioman "A" school. [African-American woman working.] (NAID 558536)

Service School Command, San Diego, California…Radioman third class Denita G. Harvey, left, of Los Angeles, California, checks a student’s typing performance for accuracy following a timed drill. Miss Harvey is an instructor at the Navy Radioman “A” school. [African-American woman working.] (NAID 558536)

This photograph, taken in 1981, shows Radioman Third Class Denita G. Harvey checking a student’s typing performance following a timed drill. Harvey was an instructor at the Navy Radioman “A” school. Radioman operates and performs upkeep of all types of radio transmitting and receiving equipment and teletypewriter equipment.

 



Submitted by Dr. Kenneth Heger, retired  Director, Research Services Mid-West, National Archives at College Park, Maryland

 

The Chocolate Kiddies was a revue group of African American entertainers who toured throughout Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. The band featured music by Duke Ellington and highlighted musicians such as Doc Cheatham, Willie Lewis, and Herb Flemming.

United States Consular Records for Zurich, Switzerland, 1858–1935 (NAID 734611)

Entry dated March 5, 1926 [United States Consular Records for Zurich, Switzerland, 1858–1935 (NAID 734611)]

 

From the series United States Consular Records for Zurich, Switzerland, 1858–1935 (NAID 734611) in RG 84 Records of Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State.

The file unit [Switzerland – Zurich – Consulate] Miscellaneous Record Book, 1925–1927 (NAID 1338594) is an entry dated March 5, 1926 that refers to Thaddeus Drayton, who was having troubles with the manager of the company making arrangements for the tour of the Chocolate Kiddies. Drayton contacted the Consulate General for assistance about the problem. After a two hour meeting between the parties, they came to a satisfactory agreement.



Today’s blog was written by Dr. Tina L. Ligon, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

The movie Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay and released in January 2015, brought to life the struggle for voting rights in America. This Academy Award nominated film, which starred David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Lorraine Toussaint, Wendell Pierce, and Stephan James gave a remarkable account on the events surrounding the historic marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.

This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Just in time to commemorate these events, the National Archives has released FBI case file #44-28492 in the series Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case Files, 1924-1978 (NAID 2329984). This series contains correspondence, memorandums, photographs, newspaper clippings, reports, transcripts, and telegrams relating to the attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Last week’s blog, Record of the Week: Selma, Edmund Pettus Bridge FBI Case File by Netisha Currie, introduced some of the documents that can be found in this case file.

The above images are of FBI surveillance taken by Special Agent Thomas E. Burns of white demonstrators on March 6, 1965, approaching the Dallas County Courthouse. The images also showed a group of white men attempting to overturn a car where a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) took refuge.

On Sunday morning, March 7th, nearly 500 people met after church to begin the 54 mile march to Montgomery, Alabama. Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and John Lewis of SNCC led a march to protest the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson and bring attention to the need for federal voting rights legislation. The protesters made it to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, just outside of Selma when they were ordered to disperse by about 150 white police troopers. The marchers refused to stop and were badly beaten by police and white onlookers.

The above images taken by Special Agent Joseph M. Avignone, showed black protesters organizing at the Brown’s Chapel, their march through Selma, and the attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The above teletype was to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and described the role of the Dallas County Sheriff’s office in the tear-gassing of marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The teletype also detailed the attack on Amelia Boynton and called her the “power behind the Dallas County Voters League” in Selma.

This memorandum dated March 10, 1965, to Mr. Belmont from A. Rosen criticized the violent actions of troopers against the protesters with no provocation. The memo gave detailed information on the events that occurred on Bloody Sunday.

The persistence of the protesters and the violence and murders associated with the marches from Selma to Montgomery caused President Lyndon B. Johnson to take action. Public support for the marchers forced Congress to act on voting rights legislation. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6th.

To obtain a copy of this file, please contact our FOIA office.

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