Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail
viewed from Prescott Park
Though excluded from the Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard, and accepted only in limited numbers by the Army and Navy, black Americans comprised 16% of the World War II ear armed forces when they were 10% of the nation's population. They were banned from becoming officers and assigned to menial tasks. Late in the war they were finally allowed into combat; 4,500 served heroically in segregated units in Europe. Black Portsmouth citizens who served in World War II included Owen Finnigan Cooper, Eugene Reid, John Ramsay, and Emerson Reed. Doris Moore and Anna Jones served in the segregated units of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs).
On the "Homefront Battlefield" many black civilians took jobs in war industries after a proposed civil rights march on Washington in 1941 spurred a ban on racial discrimination in industries with government war contracts. Many black people worked at the shipyard, including Thomas Cobbs, Rosary Cooper, and Anna Jones who worked as electrician, crane operator, and draftsman, respectively. Other civilians provided recreation for off-duty servicemen. Portsmouth's USO hosted "colored night" dances for black soldiers and sailors. Local black families invited them to People's Baptist Church, to Sunday dinner, and introduced them to the local black community. Some stayed after the war ended.
Read more about the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
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