U.S. Navy opened to Black Women

Navy Department Press Release, October 19, 1944:

Waves congratulate each other after being commissioned as the first African-American “WAVES” officers, Dec. 1944.

Negro Women to be Accepted in Women’s Reserve, U.S. Naval Reserve. The President today approved a plan submitted by the Navy Department providing for the acceptance of Negro women in the Women’s Reserve of the Navy.

The plan calls for the immediate commissioning of a limited number of especially qualified Negro women to serve as administrative officers. They will assist in the subsequent planning and supervision of the program for Negro women which will be administered as an integral part of the Women’s Reserve.

Enlistment of Negro women will be undertaken as soon as these plans have been completed and it is presently indicated that the first Negro recruits will enter training shortly after January 1. Officer candidates and enlisted women will be trained at existing schools for the training of WAVES. The number to be enlisted will be determined by the needs of the service.

Guion Bluford, Jr.

Guion Bluford Jr

Dr. Bluford’s record of accomplishments includes over 29 years of experience as a senior level business executive, NASA Astronaut, aerospace technical supervisor, aerospace engineer, computational fluid dynamicist, instructor pilot, and tactical fighter pilot.

He is the first African American to fly in space (STS-8, the eighth flight of the Space Shuttle) and the first African American to return to space (STS-61A, the 22nd flight of the Space Shuttle; STS-39; the 40th flight of the Space Shuttle; and STS-53, the 52nd flight of the Space Shuttle).  Continue reading

Fed troops & integration – Ole Miss riot 1962

Chief U.S. Marshal James McShane (left) and John Doar (right) of the Justice Department escorting James Meredith to class at Ole Miss

The Ole Miss riot 1962 was a riot fought between Southern segregationist civilians and federal and state forces as a result of the forced enrollment of black student James Meredith at the University of Mississippi (known affectionately as Ole Miss) at Oxford, Mississippi.

On October 1, 1962, James H. Meredith became the first black student at the University of Mississippi, after being barred from entering on September 20 and several other occasions in the following days. His enrollment, publicly opposed by segregationist Governor Ross Barnett, sparked riots on the Oxford campus, which required the U.S. Marshals.

Later on (federal) U.S. Army military police from the 503rd Military Police Battalion were sent by President John F. Kennedy. Troops from U.S. Border Patrol and Mississippi National Guard were called in, as well. The involvement of federal forces was opposed for a long time by the President and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Continue reading

Clarence A. “Skip” Ellis

Clarence “Skip” Ellis was born in 1943 and grew up in a very poor neighborhood of the south side of Chicago. His mother struggled to raise five children by herself. Gangs and violence were common in school. Skip wasn’t one of the “cool” kids – he mostly kept to himself. At the time, he was sad because he felt excluded from so many things. Surprisingly, this helped him because he was able to avoid the gangs, violence and problems some kids in his class got into.

At 15, Skip took a job at a local company to help support his family. He was assigned the “graveyard shift,” which meant he had to work all night long. His job was to prevent break-ins and, most importantly, not to touch the company’s brand new computer! It was 1958 and computers were very expensive and not very common. Since he had lots of free time, he read the computer manuals that came with the machines. He became a self-taught computer expert. One day, there was a crisis at the company…  Continue reading

David Walker

(b. Sept. 28, 1785, Wilmington, N.C., U.S.–d. June 28, 1830, Boston, Mass.), black American Abolitionist whose pamphlet Appeal . . . to the Colored Citizens of the World . . . (1829), urging slaves to fight for their freedom, was one of the most radical documents of the antislavery movement.

Born of a slave father and a free mother, Walker grew up free, obtained an education, and traveled throughout the country. Settling in Boston, he became involved in the Abolitionist movement (see abolitionism) and was a frequent contributor to Freedom’s Journal, an anti-slavery weekly. Sometime in the 1820s he opened a secondhand clothing store on the Boston waterfront. Through this business he could purchase clothes taken from sailors in barter for drink, and then resell them to seamen about to embark. In the copious pockets of these garments, he concealed copies of his Appeal, which he reasoned would reach Southern ports and pass through the hands of other used-clothes dealers who would know what to do with them. He also used sympathetic black seamen to distribute pamphlets directly.

When the smuggled pamphlets began to appear in the South, the states reacted with legislation prohibiting circulation of Abolitionist literature and forbidding slaves to learn to read and write. Warned that his life was in danger, Walker refused to flee to Canada. His body was found soon afterward near his shop, and many believed he had been poisoned.

His Appeal for a slave revolt, widely reprinted after his death, was accepted by a small minority of Abolitionists, but most antislavery leaders and free blacks rejected his call for violence at the time.

His only son, Edwin G. Walker, was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1866.

Upcoming Black History Posts

  • Martin R. Delany
  • Dr. Percy Lavon Julian
  • Segregation in buses and terminals banned
  • Bethune-Cookman University
  • National Council of Negro women
  • William Tucker
  • Lena Horne
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