AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive
Re: Patriots of Color
In Response To: Patriots of Color ()
Inspired by their brother, James and Willa White had both left Alabama State to make their own contributions to the war effort. James was inducted into the Army at Fort Benning, Georgia. For basic training he was sent to Camp McCain, Mississippi, which he later characterized as "a real no-man's land. It was hot and dusty-fully segregated just as all society was at that time and later."
Willa, like her brother Sherman, was going to become a pioneer in the histoty of the U.S. armed forces. She joined the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WMC), one of the women's auxiliaries that had been formed in 1942. In July 1943, all the armed forces' women's auxiliaries became regular organizations of their respective branches. The Army trained Willa and a select group of other black American women in segregated facilities at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.
Sherman Sr., Nettie, and Samson felt the blend of fear and pride becoming so hauntingly familiar to families on the home front. In the window oftheir home on WestJeff Davis Avenue, Nettie hung a small white banner with red borders surrounding three blue stars, one for each of her children serving in the nation's armed services. Then, like many a family, white or black, they poured themselves into aiding the war effort from home.
When young Samson heard that a group in Montgomery was collecting scarce items vital to the war, he began to search the neighborhood for scrap iron. He took it to collection points in downtown Montgomery, where it would be loaded into open freight cars in the nearby marshaling yards overlooking the Alabama River. Whenever he could accumulate sufficient change from his allowance, Samson would accompany his uncle to the post office downtown to purchase war stamps. The sale of Treasury Department war bonds and the less expensive war stamps, interest-bearing and redeemable after the war, served as one of the principal means of financing the war.
The Whites joined other black Montgomerians in support of a series of war loan drives. Black leaders, concerned that the public be aware ofthe role the black community was playing in these home front activities, eagerly sought newspaper coverage. The Montgomery Advertiser, at the end of a very high profile drive, gave marginal notice to black participation, saying that the "Tuskegee airport band" led a downrown parade that wrapped up the drive festivities. The Whites had cheered on the sidelines as this black Army band passed by. But even this small reference in the newspaper was more attention than the black community usually got from white newspapers. As a matter of fact, the local newspapers had been known to publish ads describing "our boys" -the soldiers on the front-as "descendants of those who marched with Lee."
Tired of waiting for fair coverage, a group of black civic leaders solicited contributions from the black community to post an ad of their own. On February 3, 1944, their full page salute to the black home front campaign appeared in the Montgomery Advertiser with a headline reading, "Montgomery County Negroes are Behind the Fourth War Bond Drive." Among other things, the page contained brief histories of African Americans who had served in America's Wars as soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Prominently displayed was a photo of Sherman White Jr. in the cockpit of his P-40 and a brief account of his death.