First warship named for a black person, the SS Leonard Roy Harom, launched in Quincy Mass, 1943.
USS Harmon, a 1400-ton Buckley class destroyer escort, was built at Quincy, Massachusetts. Commissioned in August 1943, she conducted her shakedown in the western Atlantic and was then assigned to the southwest Pacific area for escort duties with the Third and Seventh Fleets. As war fronts moved northward, Harmon participated in the January 1945 landings at Lingayen Gulf, Leyte. In March, she operated off Iwo Jima.
Beginning in mid-1945, in preparation for further invasion services, Harmon was modified to increase her gun firepower. World War II ended while this work was being done, and, upon completion of the overhaul, the ship was assigned to training duties in the Pacific and the Atlantic. Decommissioned in March 1947, Harmon remained inactive until she was sold for scrapping in January 1967.
USS Harmon was named in honor of Mess Attendant First Class Leonard Roy Harmon, a hero of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal.
The Secretary of the Navy Authorized enlistment of slaves as Union sailors, September 25, 1861
The Union Navy began to employ African American men on board ships as crew members and sailors very early in the war. And as the war progressed, blockading squadrons and naval vessels also took on board numerous “contraband” slaves who managed to escape from land to sea.
By 1863, the Union navy was enlisting and actively recruiting runaway slaves as crewmembers or paid sailors, usually at the low rank of “landsman.” By the end of the war nearly 20,000 black sailors had enlisted, a figure which represented nearly 20 percent of the navy’s enlisted men. The majority of these black sailors were men who had been enslaved but seized naval service as a route to freedom. Continue reading
Clifford Alexander Jr. was born and raised in Harlem prior to his education at Fieldstone Ethical Culture, Harvard (1955) and Yale Law School (1958). Early influences were his mother and father. Edith served as the Deputy Director then Executive Director of the Mayorâ€™s Committee on Unity under NYC Mayor LaGuardia. The Mayorâ€™s Committee on Unity was the precursor to the NYC Commission on Human Rights and fought discrimination in employment practices, public accommodations, and housing.
His father was one of several Harlem community leaders who founded the Carver Bank in response to discriminatory lending practices and worked to integrate the Riverton Apartments while serving as its manager. Alexander joined the National Guard after Law School and began working as an attorney in New York. He was asked to come to Washington D.C. in 1963 to join the staff of the National Security Council in the Kennedy administration. Continue reading
During World War II, Fort Des Moines served as a training center for the Women’s Army Corps.
One of the accomplished graduates of that training course was Bernice Gaines Hughes, the first black woman to become a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Armed Forces.