Site menu:


This post was submitted by Ray Bottorff, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park. Ray is also a comic books enthusiast, so we present this record of the week in celebration of Awesome Con, happening this weekend in Washington, DC.

From the series General Records, 1942–July 1943 (NAID 12126610) in RG 44

George J. Hecht, President of the Parents’ Institute, a publishing company, contacted the Division of Education Services of the Office of War Information (OWI) about printing comic books aimed at African Americans in order to include and encourage their participation in the war efforts.

Along with the letters, Hecht sent in examples of his work, including tear sheets from a biographical story of  Marian Anderson, which highlighted Anderson’s rising fame and generosity towards American servicemen.

Another set of tear sheets includes a biographical story on Joe Louis.

Today’s blog was written by Emanuel Riley, graduating senior at the University of Maryland and Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park


On October 17, 1963, William J. vanden Heuvel, then special assistant to President John F. Kennedy, delivered a speech to the students and faculty of Hampden-Sidney College in Prince Edward County, Virginia. By the time, vanden Heuvel delivered the speech he had become quite familiar with Prince Edward County; the county that held the title as the only county in America to close the doors of its public school system amid federal orders to desegregate its school system.




The file unit LL 2-3 Desegregation: Prince Edward Co. (NAID 18515150) located in the Office Files, 1928–1980 (NAID 573507) series in RG 12 Records of the Office of Education contains documentation from the desegregation, and subsequent mass closings, of the Prince Edward County school system. The legal case for the desegregation of the Prince Edwards County school system would become one of the five court cases that would become Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the landmark Supreme Court case in which laws establishing segregated schools were deemed to be unconstitutional.



The events leading up to the closing of the school system occurred as the war of attrition on school desegregation was occurring, led by lead counsel at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Thurgood Marshall. Marshall and the NAACP saw the Prince Edward School System as an ideal case to challenge the constitutionality of public school segregation and overturn the doctrine of Separate but Equal established by Plessy v. Ferguson more than 50 years prior. Following several lower court decisions seeking to delay the effective date of school desegregation, the U.S. Supreme Court, on June 26, 1959, denied the Prince Edward School Board’s request for further delay of the desegregation mandate. The school board responded by shutting the doors to all of its public schools in the summer of 1959.

At the start of the 1959–60 school year, the county’s white children were provided education through the Prince Edward School Foundation, a nonprofit school foundation that provided elementary and secondary education. Several local and state agencies, including the Virginia Teachers’ Association and the Prince Edward County Christian Association, arranged to provide black children with the opportunity to receive an education in non-public facilities in the county and in surrounding areas. But, less than 200 of the county’s 1,700 black children were able to attend school under such arrangements. Most of the county’s 1,700 black children were not provided a public education between 1959 and 1964.   In 1963, Michigan State University conducted a study on black and white students in Prince Edward County. Below is a sampling of the results of the study.



The Prince Edward Free School Association was established to serve the children who could not receive an education under the alternative forms of schooling established following the closing of the public school system. The Free School Association began from an initiative started by President John Kennedy, following a petition started by citizens of the county demanding public education for students of all races. On its opening day, the Prince Edward Free School Association provided schooling to 1,550 black children in the county.

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

“The beautiful thing about learning is nobody can take it away from you.” ~ B. B. King


B. B. King, blues legend and one of the greatest guitarists in music history, transitioned last week. With hits such as “The Thrill is Gone” (1969), “To Know You is to Love You” (1973), “Never Make a Move Too Soon” (1978), and “Midnight Believer” (1978), B. B. King defined music in America and around the world. His talents influenced countless other artists, including Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and the Rolling Stones. B. B. King loved to tour and interact with audiences by telling short stories about loves and loves lost, between songs.

Riley B. King was born on a plantation near the town of Itta Bena, Mississippi on September 16, 1925. As a child, he sang in local gospel choirs and at age 12, purchased his first guitar for $15.00. King made his way to Memphis, Tennessee where in 1948 he got his big break – performing on the Sonny Boy Williamson radio show on KWEM. His performance led to short 10-minute segments on the black-staffed radio station WDIA. The popularity of the segments prompted King to adopt a catchy radio name. He started using Beale Street Blues Boy, then shorten it to Blues Boy King, and eventually decided on B. B. King. In 1949, B. B. King started recording his songs and touring across the country. At a performance in Twist, Arkansas, two male patrons got into a fight that caused a fire. B. B. King barely escaped the club with his Gibson guitar. After learning that the fight was over a woman named Lucille, B. B. King decided to name his guitar after her, as a reminder to never fight over a woman.

B. B. King and President George W. Bush (NAID 7431369)

President George W. Bush Presents Riley “B. B.” King with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House (NAID 7431369)

In 2006, B. B. King received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. The honor is bestowed to those who have contributed to the national interest of the United States, through actions of world peace, culture, and other significant public endeavors. An image from the ceremony is included in the series Photographs Related to the George W. Bush Administration (NAID 5962237). B. B. King was honored for his contribution to American music and making a place for the blues within mainstream genres.


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.


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)



Subscribe to email updates