by Ligon on March 10, 2015
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)
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)
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)
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 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)
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)
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.
by Ligon on March 5, 2015
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.
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.
by Ligon on February 24, 2015
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.
44-28492 Photographs taken by SA Thomas E. Burns (1)
44-28492 Photographs taken by SA Thomas E. Burns (2)
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.
44-28492 Photographs taken by SA Joseph M. Avignone (2)
44-28492 Photographs taken by SA Joseph M. Avignone (1)
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.
44-28492 teletype to Hoover (1)
44-28492 teletype to Hoover (2)
44-28492 teletype to Hoover (3)
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.
44-28492 Rosen to Belmont (1)
44-28492 Rosen to Belmont (2)
44-28492 Rosen to Belmont (3)
44-28492 Rosen to Belmont (4)
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.
Today’s post was written by Netisha Currie, Archives Specialist at the National Archives in College Park.
Snippets of contact sheets from the FBI Case File
This weekend the 87th annual Academy Awards will air, and many of the Best Picture nominees’ subjects are culled from historical events or people. Selma (directed by Ava DuVernay) is a dramatization of the events that happened around the Selma to Montgomery marches of 1965. The event was organized in order to call attention to the continued discrimination and denial of civil and voting rights in the Deep South, and ultimately involved two of the leading civil rights organizations – the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At the time, agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were posted in and around Selma, Alabama observing and reporting on voting rights violations and the impending march. A case file was opened to investigate the events of March 7th, “Bloody Sunday”. The documents and photographs in this post all come from the file 44-28492 Section 1, Serials 1-42, Alabama (1965) 3/7 Selma to Montgomery March, Edmund Pettus Bridge (Photos)… (NAID 7634471).
Representative John Lewis (D-GA), then chairman of SNCC, and Reverend Hosea Williams of SCLC attempted to lead the march on Sunday, March 7th. Just like in the movie, the violent response from Alabama State Troopers and a mob of citizens was broadcast on national television for all to see. Citizens from around the country were largely shocked by the way the marchers were abused, and many wrote to the government to express their outrage. In the letter from Alice Guillemette of Massachusetts to J. Edgar Hoover, she questions “whether or not you agree with your FBI agent, Mr. James M. Barbo of Mobile, Ala. that you think the State Troopers acted in the interest of public safety by tear-gassing Negro marchers last Sunday at Selma, Ala.” On the broadcast she remarks, “It was the most monstrous, brutal thing I’ve ever seen,” and makes clear that she is a “white, Anglo-Saxon and Christian and old” woman supporting the cause of the marchers. The case file includes additional letters and postcards of white and black people across the country expressing the same sentiment.
Letter from Alice Guillemette to J. Edgar Hoover
Also part of the Civil Rights case file is the statements taken by FBI agents of the marchers and others that were assaulted on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Among the most notable was the statement from John Lewis, who had received a head injury in the melee.
The file “44-28492 Section 1, Serials 1-42, Alabama (1965) 3/7 Selma to Montgomery March, Edmund Pettus Bridge (Photos), Martin Luther King, Jr., A.D. King, Ralph Abernathy, A. Philip Randolph, John Robert Lewis, Hosea Williams” (NAID 7634471) is now open and available. To get a copy of this file, please contact our FOIA office.
TAGS Academy Awards
, Bloody Sunday
, Edmund Pettus Bridge
, Hosea Williams
, John Lewis
, Martin Luther King Jr
, Netisha Currie
, Pettus Bridge
, Voting Rights
by Ligon on February 12, 2015
Malcolm X (May 19, 1925–February 21, 1965), Black Muslim minister and prominent figure in the Nation of Islam (NOI), advocated for black self-determination and racial pride. In the mid-1960s, he broke with the NOI and began to support the efforts of the civil rights movement. Malcolm X was assassinated while addressing the Organization of Afro-American Unity in New York City, a group he formed to fight for human rights of African Americans.
“Racial Demonstration and Parade in D. C.” Malcolm X, leader of the Black Muslims participating in the demonstration in front of Justice Dept. 6/14/1963 (306-SS-16-820-J-28)
On June 14, 1963, a group of activists gathered outside of the Department of Justice to protest the recent murder of Mississippi Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers and to demand civil rights legislation. Malcolm X and members of the Nation of Islam (NOI) joined the protest. This image shows Malcolm X holding the Muhammad Speaks newspaper at the protest and speaking out for black justice. The photograph is from RG 306 Staff and Stringer Photographs, 1949–1969 (NAID 541989) series.