Pictures of AFRICAN AMERICANS During World War II
During the 50th anniversary of World War II, as we honor those Americans who undauntedly and courageously contributed to the defense of our nation, often overlooked in our remembrances are the valiant efforts of African Americans. Throughout the war years they repeatedly had to battle adversaries on two fronts: the enemy overseas and racism at home. Black Americans recognized the paradox of fighting a world war for the “four freedoms” while being subjected to prejudicial practices in the United States. Thus, as the war unfolded, they vehemently insisted on the privileges of full citizenship. African Americans were ready to work and fight for their country, but at the same time they demanded an end to the discrimination against them.
To that end, over 2.5 million African-American men registered for the draft, and black women volunteered in large numbers. While serving in the Army, Army Air Forces, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, they experienced continuing discrimination and segregation. Despite these impediments, many African-American men and women met the challenge and persevered. They served with distinction, made valuable contributions to the war effort, and earned well-deserved praise and commendations for their struggles and sacrifices.
On the homefront, black Americans also did their part to support the war. They worked in war industries and in government wartime agencies, sold war bonds, voluntarily conserved goods needed for the war, performed civil defense duties, encouraged troops by touring camps as entertainers, risked their lives on the front lines to report the war, and performed many other vital services.
The images described in this leaflet illustrate African-American participation in World War II. The pictures were selected from the holdings of the Still Picture Branch (NNSP) of the National Archives and Records Administration. The majority of the pictures were chosen from the records of the Army Signal Corps in Record Group (RG) 111, the Department of the Navy in RG 80, the Coast Guard in RG 26, the Marine Corps in RG 127, and the Office of War Information in RG 208.
The pictures are listed in the brochure first by the five branches of the military and then by subject headings entitled Merchant Marine, Women in the Military, Training, Rest and Relaxation, Personalities, and the Homefront. Whenever possible, original captions are used and appear in quotation marks; however, no attempt was made to verify completely the accuracy of all the information included in these captions. Obvious errors and misspellings were corrected, but no effort was made to standardize identification of military ranks, which were cited by photographers in various ways. The captions also reflect the fact that the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC) was renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in July 1943, and the Air Corps (AC), after a reorganization, became the Army Air Forces (AAF) in March 1942. Many of the captions were edited for length, and extraneous information and pejorative terms were eliminated. Conversely, information was sometimes added to help the reader understand a caption. Within an original caption, this additional material appears in brackets. When no caption was available, one was created. If the photographers, artists, locations, or dates of the photograph were known, they also are listed. Following all of this information in the caption are image identification numbers, which are printed in italics.
At the end of this pamphlet are instructions for ordering complete sets of slides from this and other Select Audiovisual Records leaflets. Prints, negatives, or slides of individual items listed in the leaflets may also be ordered. To do so, first contact the Still Picture Branch (NNSP), National Archives, Washington, DC 20408, for a current price list and ordering information. With the exception of three color posters (indicated by an asterisk following the identification number), all of the pictures in this list are available only as black-and-white reproductions.
Inquiries about other World War II pictures that may be part of National Archives holdings should be submitted separately to the Still Picture Branch. Indicate as specifically as possible the desired names, dates, places, events, subjects, and other details. Please limit each request to three items.
Barbara Lewis Burger researched, selected, and arranged the items for this list and wrote the introductory information.