Black History Month Tribute: Dr. Walter B. Hill Jr., Archivist, Historian, and Father

Today’s Black History Tribute was written by Alexis Hill, Assistant Registrar in the Exhibits Division at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland

Dr. Walter B. Hill Jr., scholar, historian, and senior archivist, opened a lot of doors to the records on African-American history during his 30-year career at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). He praised NARA as “a special place for me in my professional life and my work is a testimony to the institution that allowed me to navigate the rich history of Americans, in particular African Americans.” During his tenue at the National Archives, Dr. Hill mentored many up-and-coming archivists and introduced the world to the holdings at NARA that related to black history.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Walter Hill discussing a document to D.C. area politicians.  Photograph courtesy of the author.

Dr. Hill was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. He received his BA in History from the College of Wooster in 1971 and his MA in US History from Northern Illinois University in 1973. He received his Ph. D. in United States History in 1988, from the University of Maryland under the guidance of historian Ira Berlin. Walter Hill also taught at St. Louis University, Howard University, and the University of Maryland.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Photograph courtesy of the author.

Dr. Hill began his archival career at the National Archives in 1978, where he worked in several offices, including the Office of the Archivist of the United States National Historical Publication and Records Administration, Office of the National Archives Library and Printed Archives Division, Reference Service Branch, and the Office of Textual Research Services. Hill spent his tenue at NARA looking through the vast amount of records relating to African-American history. Through his research and knowledge of the subject area, he compiled this information into articles, reference papers, and essays.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Photograph courtesy of the author.

Not only was Dr. Hill dedicated to his work and colleagues within the National Archives, he was also involved with other projects relating to black history. He was the film consultant for the 1989 movie Glory and the Chief Historian of the African-American Civil War Memorial Foundation. In September of 2003, Dr. Hill gave an interview for History Makers, where he reflected on his life and career. His involvement in many organizations helped expose the vast amount of federal records on African-American history and brought the National Archives into the spotlight.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Walter Hill with Historian John Hope Franklin.  Photograph courtesy of the author.

Since his passing in July 2008, Dr. Walter B. Hill, Jr. is still remembered and honored by his colleagues at both the National Archives and the many historical organizations he was involved in. In February 2009, at the annual Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) luncheon, Hill was honored for his dedication to the organization. Current and former NARA colleagues decided to reserve a table in his memory and it has been reserved for them at every luncheon since then.  

As his daughter, I could not be anymore proud of my late father’s accomplishments. I still hear stories about him from many of his colleagues and close friends. He walked the halls of the National Archives for 30 years and he truly opened many doors to archival records on African-American history.

Posted in Personal Experience, Tribute/News | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Black College Life in the New Deal: A Google Cultural Institute Exhibit

Today’s blog was written by Netisha Currie, Archives Specialist at the National Archives in College Park.

In celebration of Black History Month, the Google Cultural Institute has created a channel devoted to Black History and Culture. It features over 80 exhibits showcasing documents, artwork, photographs, artifacts and 5,000 other types of items relating to black history. The National Archives has contributed to the channel by creating an exhibit of our own – Black College Life in the New Deal: A Photo Exhibit through the Lens of Kenneth Space, Photographer for the Harmon Foundation.

Our exhibit (curated by myself and Tina Ligon, with great assistance from Rutha Beamon, Sharon Culley, and Theresa Roy) displays photographs from the series Kenneth Space Photographs of the Activities of Southern Black Americans, 1936-1937 (NAID 559211) in the Harmon Foundation Collection. Pictures show African American students at various historically black colleges and universities including: Howard University, Virginia Union University, Fisk University, Clark Atlanta University, Tuskegee University, Xavier University, and Dillard University.

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The photos selected in the exhibit will be the first time they are displayed as a large collection, rather than in fragments that may be shown on individual college’s websites. These records are an important highlight of the National Archives collection as they tell a story of an under represented and unique time in American history – of black students attending college during the Great Depression.


 Important Links:

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Civil War Era Tintypes: Randall Nash, USCT, Inf.

Today’s blog was written by Jesse Wilinski, Archives Technician at the National Archives at Washington, D. C.

While working on RG 15 Case Files of Approved Veterans’ Pensions Application (Civil War and Later Survivor’s Certificates), 1861-1934 series, I came across a rare object in a Civil War Pension file. It was a tintype of United States Colored Infantryman, Randall Nash. A tintype is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of metal coated with a dark lacquer or enamel. It is a rarity to see a photograph, much less a tintype, in a pension file. When found, tintypes are generally removed from the series and stored in the specially protected vault at the National Archives at Washington, D. C.

Randall Nash's tintype along with document from the Department of the Interior

Randall Nash’s tintype along with documentation from the Department of the Interior Bureau of Pensions

Randall Nash’s unit was first designated as the 4th Regiment Colored Infantry of Missouri Volunteers and was soon renamed the 68th United States Colored Troops (USCT) Infantry. It was mustered in Liberty, Missouri on January 28, 1864 and mustered out on February 5, 1866. Over two hundred former enslaved men from across Missouri were enlisted in this unit. The 68th travelled to Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Texas, performing duties in the defense of other units.

 

Tintype of Randall Nash

Tintype of Randall Nash

Nash’s pension file was listed under the name of Randall Talbot, an alias. The tintype was used to identify him, because no one knew Nash by any other name in the 68th USCT. The use of aliases made it difficult for surviving family members to collect pensions. In several cases, former enslaved black men who served during the Civil War would use an alias to prevent recapture or to take on a “free” name.

Index card to request the tintype for Randall Nash. Invalid Application 1046175 Certificate 831223 Widow Application 673620 Certificate 476266

Index card to request the tintype for Randall Nash. Invalid Application 1046175 Certificate 831223
Widow Application 673620 Certificate 476266

When I found this tintype, I had pulled the pension file and scanned it at the Innovation HUB. The Innovation HUB is new way of capturing information for researchers in a digital format for free and gives the National Archives the ability to put the records online for the public to use. Since this tintype is now in the vault, it is no longer physically available to researchers, but can be accessed through digital images. For assistance with pension files and tintypes, please contact the reference staff at the National Archives at Washington, D.C.

 

Posted in American Civil War, Genealogy, Military | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday and Legacy

Today’s blog was written by Alexis Hill, Assistant Registrar in the Exhibits Division at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

Today we celebrate the birthday and legacy of  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, who used the philosophy of nonviolent activism. King made advancements in civil rights for all people through nonviolent civil disobedience.

542015 king

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd.] (NAID 542015)

Born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia, King came to stardom when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man. In 1957, he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and became its first president. Through SCLC, King led many struggles for civil rights throughout the South. King gained even more national attention when he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Through his devotion to nonviolence and racial equality, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 and was present when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (NAID 299891).

In the spring of 1965, King and the SCLC organized a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama for voting rights. The first march took place on March 7, 1965, which became known as “Bloody Sunday,” when 600 marchers were attacked by state police with beatings and tear gas on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. One of those 600 marchers was Representative John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who was beaten severely during the attack. The events of “Bloody Sunday” resulted in a class action suit against Governor George Wallace and the State of Alabama brought up by Lewis, Hosea Williams, and Amelia Boynton. All three testified at the hearing and described the horrific events that took place at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Dr. King also testified at the hearing. On page 29 of the testimony, King answered questions on how they planned the march from Selma. In one answer he stated, “Well, we started having mass meetings; we felt that we had to do something to arouse people all over the community…” After an objection from one of the lawyers, King continued to describe how they held mass and ward meetings in Dallas County.

In the end, the court approved a plan and guarded the marchers from Selma to Montgomery. On March 21, 1965, around 8,000 people began the march from Selma arriving at the State Capitol in Montgomery on March 25th. The publicity of the lawsuit and the second march inspired Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (NAID 299909).

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The file of Hosea Williams, John Lewis, and Amelia Boynton v. Governor George Wallace (NAID 643802) is part of the series Civil Cases, 09/1938 – 11/26/1968 (NAID 279193), at the National Archives of Atlanta. The Southeast Region Archives holds many U.S. District Court files pertaining to civil rights cases from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina. For more information, please visit the National Archives at Atlanta website.

In the final years of his life, King focused on poverty, the Vietnam War, as well as the rights of African-American workers. He was planning the Poor People’s Campaign when he was assassinated in April 1968. His legacy continues to be inspirational in the United States and around the world. On November 2, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating a federal holiday to honor him; it was first observed on January 20, 1986 and continues to be observed on the third Monday of January every year.

11/2/1983 President Reagan and Signing Ceremony for Martin Luther King Holiday Legislation in the rose garden with Coretta Scott King George Bush Howard Baker Bob Dole Jack Kemp Samuel Pierce Katie Hall looking on (NAID 6728680)

President Reagan and Signing Ceremony for Martin Luther King Holiday Legislation in the rose garden with Coretta Scott King George Bush Howard Baker Bob Dole Jack Kemp Samuel Pierce Katie Hall looking on (NAID 6728680)

 

Posted in Anniversary, Civil Rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Lynching of Women in United States Blog Series Part 1: The Lynching of Sisters Eula and Ella Charles

This blog was written by Dr. Trichita M. Chestnut, Management and Program Analyst in the Office of the Chief Operating Officer at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

This will be the first blog post on a series of blogs on the lynching of women in the United States.

Lynching remains one of the most disturbing and least understood atrocities in American history.  During the Postbellum and Reconstruction periods, mob violence in the South became a tool for maintaining the racial order. African-American men, women, and children now comprised the majority of victims of lynch mobs and lynchings assumed an increasingly sadistic nature.

Between 1837 and 1946, 173 women were victims of white mob violence in the United States. Of the 173 women lynched: 144 were African American, 25 were white, 3 were Mexican, and 1 was Native American. 164 of these women met their deaths at the hands of lynch mobs in the South. Women, who moved outside the well-defined boundaries of the rigid moral and social order of the Post-Reconstruction period, were challenging the cult of true womanhood and the domination of white males and sex-role mandates. In extreme situations, women who would not conform were lynched.

There are case files on the lynching of women in Georgia, found in Record Group 60 General Records of the Department of Justice and RG 65 Records of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the these records you will find correspondence, newspaper clippings, telegrams, petitions, and resolutions from ordinary Americans as well as notable anti-lynching and civil rights activists and organizations relating to the lynching of African Americans in the United States. Continue reading

Posted in African-American Women, Civil Rights Protest & Issues, Post-Reconstruction | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Long Siege”: Thurgood Marshall’s Other Court Nomination Battle

Today’s blog was written by Stacey Chandler, textual reference archivist at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

In 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African American to serve as United States Supreme Court Justice. It was a milestone etched in the American memory in part because of the infamous fight to push Marshall’s nomination through a bitterly divided U.S. Senate. But, few people know that the Supreme Court battle was not Marshall’s first run-in with people angered by the idea of a black civil rights lawyer ruling from a federal bench.

Photograph of Thurgood Marshall (NAID 2803441)

Photograph of Thurgood Marshall (NAID 2803441)

By 1961, Marshall was already in the national spotlight as a lawyer for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was known as an integration advocate – the man who argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court in 1954, convincing the nation’s highest court that segregation in schools was unconstitutional. While Marshall continued his legal work for the NAACP, journalist and political adviser Louis Martin (later known as the “Godfather of Black Politics”) was working on a different civil rights approach: encouraging President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to appoint judges of color to rule over federal courts.

President Kennedy meets with Augustus F. Hawkins (center) and Louis Martin (right) in the Oval Office, August 22, 1962. Please credit: "Robert Knudsen/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston."

President Kennedy meets with Augustus F. Hawkins (center) and Louis Martin (right) in the Oval Office, August 22, 1962. Please credit: “Robert Knudsen/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, Boston.”

Marshall turned down the first job Robert Kennedy offered him – a judgeship in a lower court –but a week later, he bumped into Louis Martin at the airport in New York. The two shared hot dogs at the lunch counter and talked about vacant judgeships in the higher courts, specifically, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, considered to be among the country’s most influential courts. Martin later remembered asking Marshall if he would accept one of these prominent judgeships. Marshall’s replied, “Well, I think it’s a hell of a job. Sure, I’d take it any way I can get it.”

Letter from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to President John F. Kennedy; the handwritten note indicates the letter was sent to the Senate on September 23, 1961. [JFKWHCFCHRON-014-009-p0131]

Letter from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to President John F. Kennedy; the handwritten note indicates the letter was sent to the Senate on September 23, 1961. [JFKWHCFCHRON-014-009-p0131]

Martin “did all I could to persuade [the Attorney General] that this would be a tremendous stroke to get ‘Mr. Civil Rights’ into the judiciary,” and on September 23, 1961, Thurgood Marshall’s name was sent to the Senate as the Kennedy Administration’s nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Congress adjourned a few days later without confirming Marshall for the job. In October, the President gave Marshall a “recess appointment” that allowed him to serve in the judgeship while Congress held his nomination hearings. It was not until May 1962, when Marshall had already been serving in the judgeship for seven months, that the Senate subcommittee charged with holding confirmation hearings actually began to hold them. In the mail that poured into the White House, some Americans bluntly stated their own fears about the nomination. One citizen worried about the nomination of a pro-integration “radical,” while another saw the appointment as an affront to Christian America.

But, many letters expressed support for Marshall’s nomination and disbelief over the publicly-stated reasons for the delays, which included everything from questioning Marshall about the intricacies of judicial ethics, to problems scheduling the subcommittee meetings. Some writers were outraged that the three-person subcommittee was selected by Senator James Eastland of Mississippi and included two similarly notorious segregationists: Olin Johnston of South Carolina and John McClellan of Arkansas.

While the subcommittee delayed, a Supreme Court Justice announced his retirement. Several letters to the White House, including one from Martin Luther King, Jr., suggested that the President forget the Second Circuit judgeship and appoint Marshall to the vacancy at the Supreme Court instead. But the administration quickly nominated Deputy Attorney General Byron White, who was confirmed by Congress about a week later.

Telegram from Martin Luther King, Jr. [JFKWHCNF-1736-004-p0014]

Telegram from Martin Luther King, Jr.
[JFKWHCNF-1736-004-p0014]

Telegram from Martin Luther King, Jr. [JFKWHCNF-1478-015-p0015]

Telegram from Martin Luther King, Jr.
[JFKWHCNF-1478-015-p0015]

Marshall, calling the stalled process for his own confirmation “the long siege,” remembered telling President Kennedy that it was “taking its effect on my family.” He recalled the President’s response: “Forget about it – it takes time.” But, still waiting in August 1962, President Kennedy acknowledged in a press conference that the nomination “has been much too much delayed.” Nearly a year after the initial nomination was sent to the Senate, more frustrated letters began to appear in the White House mail room, pressuring the administration to take action.

The wait finally ended in September 1962, when vocal Marshall supporter Senator Kenneth Keating (New York) and a few of his colleagues pulled off a political maneuver that took control of the nomination away from the subcommittee and brought it to the larger Senate Judiciary Committee. Over the objections of four Committee members, including Johnston, McClellan, and Eastland, the nomination was approved.

Letters from the general public protesting the government’s inaction on the Marshall nomination. [JFKWHCNF-1736-004-p0027]

Letters from the general public protesting the government’s inaction on the Marshall nomination. [JFKWHCNF-1736-004-p0027]

Letters from the general public urging presidential action to push Thurgood Marshall’s nomination through the subcommittee. [JFKWHCNF-1736-004-p0008]

Letters from the general public urging presidential action to push Thurgood Marshall’s nomination through the subcommittee. [JFKWHCNF-1736-004-p0008]

In 1964, Marshall was asked whether he considered his nomination and confirmation to be overt support for the Civil Rights Movement. He answered: “No, no. The Attorney General made that clear.” He went on to note, “I sit as a circuit judge on the Appellate Court, but if I go to Mississippi I couldn’t stay in any decent hotel, go to any restaurant, or go to any theater.” But the mail that came into the White House during and after the hearings makes it clear that this fight did, indeed, hold a deeper meaning for many Americans. It highlighted the stark divides among the people – and among their representatives – hinting at the Supreme Court nomination battle that was still to come.

Posted in Civil Rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tribute: Meadowlark Lemon, “Clown Prince of Basketball”

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

“I had a dream, and I worked at it. I didn’t think about being the greatest or having an impact outside the game. I wanted to leave the game better than I found it.”                          ~ Meadowlark Lemon

On December 27, 2015, Meadowlark Lemon passed at the age of 83 in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was best known as a member of the famed Harlem Globetrotters basketball team who had a legendary patented hook shot and the ability for entertaining the audience. Lemon was honored with Ebony Magazine’s Sports Legends Award in 1997, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and received the John W. Bunn Award for his lifetime contributions to basketball in 2003. He was also a motivational speaker, minister, and author.

Photograph of First Lady Betty Ford Reaching to Pick up a Basketball Signed by the Harlem Globetrotters as Team Member Meadowlark Lemon Looks On, 12/6/1974 (NAID 186785)

Photograph of First Lady Betty Ford Reaching to Pick up a Basketball Signed by the Harlem Globetrotters as Team Member Meadowlark Lemon Looks On, 12/6/1974 (NAID 186785)

Born Meadow George Lemon, III on April 25, 1932 in Wilmington, North Carolina, he briefly attended Florida A&M University, before being drafted to serve in the US Army in 1952. After his time in the military, Lemon joined the Harlem Globetrotters in 1954, performing and playing basketball for twenty-four years. The Globetrotters played all over the world and Lemon’s style of play and performances made him one of the most popular players in the team’s history. Lemon appeared in several TV shows, including “ABC’s Wide World of Sports,” “Scooby Doo,” “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and also starred in a Burger King commercial during the 1960s and 1970s.

The series Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files, 1982-2007 (NAID 6274097) contains images of Meadowlark Lemon’s participation in an exhibition game aboard the USS Ranger (CV-61) in 1988. The game was sponsored by the San Diego Sports Arena, along with the ESPN Sports network. Members of the navy and their families were invited to attend the game.

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Posted in Tribute/News | Tagged , , , , ,

60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott

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

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus to a white man. She was arrested and charged with violating the city’s segregation laws. Her act of civil disobedience led to a 381-day boycott of the city buses by African American residents in Montgomery. The resistance that Parks displayed was rooted in years of frustration from mistreatment and the racial segregation policies enforced by the Montgomery city buses and local law officials.

Fingerprint Card of Rosa Parks (641627)

Fingerprint Card of Rosa Parks (NAID 641627)

 

Police Report on Arrest of Rosa Parks (NAID 596074)

Police Report on Arrest of Rosa Parks (NAID 596074)

Members of the black community had wanted to challenge the bus segregation policies for several months. The Women’s Political Council (WPC), led by activist and educator Jo Ann Robinson, called for a one-day bus boycott on December 5th – the same day that Rosa Parks was tried for violating the segregation laws. After the WPC printed and distributed thousands of flyers to black residents in Montgomery, the one-day bus boycott was a success.

In order to maintain the momentum of the one-day bus boycott and affect lasting change, local NAACP leader E. D. Nixon, Reverend Ralph Abernathy, and other ministers in the community established the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA). Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was voted president of MIA and became spokesperson for the bus boycott.

Great River Road - The Montgomery Bus Where Rosa Parks Sat (NAID 7718884)

Great River Road – The Montgomery Bus Where Rosa Parks Sat (NAID 7718884)

Rosa Parks was not the first, but one of many other black women who had been arrested and charged with violating various policies regarding segregated seating on city buses. Earlier that year, Claudette Colvin was handcuffed and arrested for refusing to give up her seat on March 2nd. Fifteen year old Colvin was involved with the local NAACP Youth Council and had an understanding of her Fourteenth Amendment rights (namely, equal protection of the law). However certain members of the community felt that she did not hold the appropriate image to be a test case against Jim Crow policies.

Claudette Colvin, along with Aurelia S. Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith (all arrested and charged with violating segregation policies on the buses), became plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city of Montgomery and the state of Alabama. Colvin, Browder, McDonald, and Smith were encouraged and aided in their legal pursuit by the MIA and WPC. The US District Court of Alabama ruled in Browder v. Gayle on June 5, 1956 that segregation on the buses was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. The city of Montgomery and the state of Alabama appealed the ruling all the way to the United States Supreme Court, who upheld the decision by the lower federal district court that Alabama’s racial segregation laws for buses were unconstitutional. Documents from the landmark case are available online and held at the National Archives in Atlanta under the file unit Aurelia S. Browder et al v. W. A. Gayle et al, No. 1147 (NAID 279205).

The boycott ended more than a year after Rosa Parks’ arrest, on December 20, 1956.

Posted in African-American Women, Anniversary, Civil Rights | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Remembering Those Who Served: A Tribute to Veterans

“Honoring the sacrifices many have made for our country in the name of freedom and democracy is the very foundation of Veterans Day.” ~ Congressman Charles B. Rangel

In honor of Veterans Day, the Rediscovering Black History blog would like to commend those African Americans who served in the Armed Forces.

The National Archives holds numerous photographs of African Americans serving in both World War I and World War II. These images depict black soldiers in training, interacting with other soldiers, and at victory parades. The photographs of African American men and women involved in the World Wars can be found in RG 44 Records of the Office of Government Reports, RG 111 Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, RG 165 Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, and RG 208 Records of the Office of War Information.

World War I

When the United States joined the Great War in Europe, more than 350,000 African American men enlisted in the military. They served in segregated units, primarily in supporting roles. Black men were assigned to the cavalry, infantry, and artillery units serving as chaplains, surveyors, and truck drivers. Although African American soldiers were limited to service in menial positions, there were a few predominate black troops that played a significant role in the war. These units included the 369th Infantry Regiment (“Harlem Hellfigthers”), 371st Infantry Regiment, Butchery Company, No. 322, Engineer Service Battalions, and Labor Companies.

 

Images from World War I

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World War II

Over 2.5 million African Americans served in World War II. They were assigned to various low-level tasks and duties, while still serving in segregated units (such as the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, the “Triple Nickles”). Several African Americans stood out during the war for their heroics and promotions to higher ranks. Some of the noteworthy black men were: Dorie Miller, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., Benjamin O. Davis, Jr., and Frederick C. Branch. Also, during this war, there was a greater presence of African American women gained a greater presence as they served in segregated women’s auxiliaries in the field. Black women, including Phyllis Daley, Harriet Ida Pickens, and Frances Wills made history during World War II in their roles as nurses and as officers.

Images from World War II

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Tribute to NARA Employees and Family Members who Served

On November 5, 2015, the Afro-American History Society sponsored a Veterans Day commemoration, featuring keynote speaker Dr. Oscar Barbarin, Chair of the Department of African American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. The title of the presentation was “Life After World War II, Veterans Who Survive Injury.” During the program, several National Archives employees shared personal pictures and related documentation of themselves or family members who served in the military.

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Below is a list of selected resources that highlight NARA records relating to African Americans in the World Wars:

Posted in Military, Tribute/News, World War I Era, World War II Era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Freedmen’s Bureau Transportation Records: Letters of “Sold” Former Slaves Seeking to Rejoin Loved Ones

Today’s blog was written by Mr. Damani Davis, Reference Archivist at the National Archives in Washington, D. C.

This blog was a part of a presentation titled “The Freedmen’s Bureau and the Freedman’s Bank: Reconstruction Records at the National Archives,” given at the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on September 25, 2015

Due to the recent popularity of genealogy-based television series such as, African American Lives, Who Do You Think You Are, and Faces of America, the interest in genealogical research has grown rapidly among African Americans. Reference archivists and specialists at the National Archives Building in downtown Washington, D. C. have assisted many of these new researchers by describing to them the relevant Federal records held in NARA facilities. Among NARA’s records most immediately relevant to African American genealogy and history are the RG 105 Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, or the “Freedmen’s Bureau.” These records provide a glimpse into the lives and experiences of recently freed African Americans in the South during the years immediately following emancipation.

When I first embarked upon my new career as a reference archivist, my colleagues advised that the best way to get acquainted with the records to assist researchers was by researching my own genealogy. I immediately began my research by examining the US Census records. Starting with my paternal line, based in rural Maryland and Philadelphia, PA, I hit a major dead end when the 1900 and 1910 censuses revealed that my great-grandfather, Harold Davis, was an adopted foster child. Unable to find any information on his biological parents, my research into that branch of my paternal lineage ended with him.

Continue reading

Posted in Emancipation & Reconstruction, Genealogy, Personal Experience, Post-Reconstruction | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,