TO SERVE MY COUNTRY, TO SERVE MY RACE ~ The Story of the Only African-American WACs Stationed Overseas During World War II
Book review and technical detail TO SERVE MY COUNTRY, TO SERVE MY RACE ~ The Story of the Only African-American WACs Stationed Overseas During World War II Brenda L. Moore
|Technical detail of TO SERVE MY COUNTRY, TO SERVE MY RACE ~ The Story of the Only African-American WACs Stationed Overseas During World War II|
|Title||TO SERVE MY COUNTRY, TO SERVE MY RACE ~ The Story of the Only African-American WACs Stationed Overseas During World War II|
|author||Brenda L. Moore|
|Publishing Date||1st January, 1970|
In an original contribution to the extensive WW II literature, Moore (Sociology/SUNY, Buffalo) has compiled oral histories of African-American women who served in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Although racism and sexism were rampant in the military as in civilian life, powerful allies like Mary McLeod Bethune, Eleanor Roosevelt, and the NAACP helped to persuade President Roosevelt to remove one barrier after another that prevented black women from participating in the war effort. As a result, many African-American women volunteered, bravely facing their lot as members of a segregated army because of patriotism, activism, and the desire to better themselves. Moore presents the stories of some of these women, members of the only battalion to be stationed overseas during the war. Despite gripes that all soldiers share, the accounts claim that morale was high. Moore's subjects seemed to enjoy the humor of 850 women in a barracks--especially when all of them needed to have their hair done at the same time by the few beauticians in their ranks. They also tell of the hospitality they found among the British and French families they encountered--in sharp contrast to the racial discrimination of Americans. Moore shows that these women faced sex discrimination, as well, and repeated slanders against their reputations as either ``companions'' to black soldiers or butch lesbians. Still, the women's reports about the army are mainly positive. For most of these WACs, military training gave them the tools of upward mobility: discipline, education (through the GI bill), maturity, a work ethic, job training, experience, pride, and confidence. Although perhaps of more interest to students of sociology than to the general reader, Moore's study warmly tells a success story about a little-known aspect of WW II.
I would have climbed up a mountain to get on the list [to serve overseas]. We were going to do our duty. Despite all the bad things that happened, America was our home. This is where I was born. It was where my mother and father were. There was a feeling of wanting to do your part.--Gladys Carter, member of the 6888th To Serve My Country, to Serve my Race is the story of the historic 6888th, the first United States Women's Army Corps unit composed of African-American women to serve overseas. While African-American men and white women were invited, if belatedly, to serve their country abroad, African-American women were excluded for overseas duty throughout most of WWII. Under political pressure from legislators like Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the NAACP, the black press, and even President Roosevelt, the U.S. War Department was forced to deploy African-American women to the European theater in 1945.African-American women, having succeeded, through their own activism and political ties, in their quest to shape their own lives, answered the call from all over the country, from every socioeconomic stratum. Stationed in France and England at the end of World War II, the 6888th brought together women like Mary Daniel Williams, a cook in the 6888th who signed up for the Army to escape the slums of Cleveland and to improve her ninth-grade education, and Margaret Barnes Jones, a public relations officer of the 6888th, who grew up in a comfortable household with a politically active mother who encouraged her to challenge the system. Despite the social, political, and economic restrictions imposed upon these African-American women in their own country, they were eager to serve, not only out of patriotism but out of a desire to uplift their race and dispell bigoted preconceptions about their abilities. Elaine Bennett, a First Sergeant in the 6888th, joined because "I wanted to prove to myself and maybe to the world that we would give what we had back to the United States as a confirmation that we were full- fledged citizens." Filled with compelling personal testimony based on extensive interviews, To Serve My Country is the first book to document the lives of these courageous pioneers. It reveals how their Army experience affected them for the rest of their lives and how they, in turn, transformed the U.S. military forever.
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