From May 22 to 31, the digital collection of the USCT Service Records will be free on www.Fold3.com.
On May 22, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders 143, establishing a Bureau of Colored Troops in the Adjutant General’s Office to recruit and organize African American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. With this order, all African American regiments were designated as United States Colored Troops (USCT).
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the USCT, and the National Archives is pleased to announce the completion of the USCT Service Records Digitization Project. In partnership with Fold3, the project provides online access to all service records—more than 3.8 million images—of Union volunteers in USCT units.
Remember: All National Archives collections on Fold3.com can always be viewed for free at a computer at any National Archives facility nationwide.
The photo and paperwork above come from the compiled military service records of former slave Edmund Delaney. Read his story on the Prologue blog.
War Department General Order 143: Ordering the Creation of the U.S. Colored Troops, May 22, 1863
The outbreak of the Civil War set off a rush by free black men to enlist in U.S. military units. They were turned away, however, because a Federal law dating from 1792 barred Negroes from bearing arms for the U.S. Army. The Lincoln administration wrestled with the idea of authorizing the recruitment of black troops, concerned that such a move would prompt the border states to secede.
However, following the Emancipation Proclamation and faced with dwindling white volunteers, black recruitment was pursued in earnest. Volunteers from South Carolina, Tennessee, and Massachusetts filled the first authorized black regiments. Recruitment was slow until black leaders such as Frederick Douglass encouraged black men to become soldiers to ensure eventual full citizenship. (Two of Douglass’s own sons contributed to the war effort.) Volunteers began to respond, and in May 1863 the Government established the Bureau of Colored Troops to manage the burgeoning numbers of black soldiers. By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10 percent of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army, and another 19,000 served in the Navy.
via Our Documents
“I respectfully remind you sir, that we have been the most patient of all people.”
-Letter from Jackie Robinson to President Eisenhower of May 13, 1958
After he retired from Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson went on to champion the cause of civil rights from his position as a prominent executive of the Chock Full o’Nuts Corporation.
Robinson had grown increasingly impatient with what he regarded as President Eisenhower’s failure to act decisively in combating racism. In this letter dated May 13, 1958, he expresses his frustration and calls upon the President to finally guarantee Federal support of black civil rights.
Kaiser shipyards, Richmond, California. Miss Eastine Cowner, a former waitress, is helping in her job as a scaler to construct the Liberty Ship SS George Washington Carver launched on May 7, 1943.
From the series: Negro Activities in Industry, Government, and the Armed Forces from the Records of the Office of War Information.
BLACK FAMILY ENJOYING THE SUMMER WEATHER AT CHICAGO’S 12TH STREET BEACH ON LAKE MICHIGAN. FROM 1960 TO 1970 THE PERCENTAGE OF CHICAGO BLACKS WITH AN INCOME OF $7,000 OR MORE JUMPED FROM 26 TO 58%. MEDIAN BLACK INCOME DURING THE PERIOD INCREASED FROM $4,700 TO $7,883, BUT THE DOLLAR GAP BETWEEN THEIR GROUP AND THE WHITES ACTUALLY WIDENED, 08/1973
From the Records of the Environmental Protection Agency (12/02/1970-)
Earlier today, the National Archives in Washington, DC hosted Jimmie Walker the actor who played J.J. Evans in the 1970s television show Good Times and the author of Dynomite!: Good Times, Bad Times and Our Times- A Memoir.
Watch the archived webcast here: http://www.ustream.tv/usnationalarchives
Jimmie Walker got his start performing comedy in small clubs, and ultimately became a 1970s icon playing J.J. Evans on Good Times.
Walker will be talking about his memoir at the National Archives on Friday, May 3, at noon.
He was the first successful young black sitcom star, and his catchphrase—“Dyn-o-mite!”—remains an indicator of the era. In Dynomite!, Walker talks candidly about his rise and the tensions on the set of Good Times that contradict the show’s image of a close-knit blue-collar family.
A book signing will follow the program.
Happy DC Emancipation Day!
DC Emancipation Act (by usnationalarchives)
Predating the Emancipation Proclamation, President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the District of Columbia Emancipation Act on April 16, 1862, freeing enslaved persons in Washington, DC and ending “the national shame” of slavery in the nation’s capital. Unlike the later terms of the Emancipation Proclamation, slave owners in DC were compensated by the U.S. Treasury Department.
In this Inside the Vaults video short, Documentary Archivist Damani Davis discusses the petitions filed by owners and slaves under the Act and the details they reveal about the enslaved African-American community at the time. Archivist Robert Ellis explains how the process worked.
Learn more about the DC Emancipation Act and the journey to Emancipation in the new free eBook from the National Archives: The Meaning and Making of Emancipation, in ePub, iBook and Scribd formats.
Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. This decision would not only integrate baseball, but would help the country work to achieve equal rights for all. Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., once commented to baseball pitcher Don Newcombe, “Don, you and Jackie will never know how easy you made my job, through what you went through on the baseball field.”
Before becoming famous, Lt. Jack R. Robinson was court-martialed at Camp Hood, Texas, because he refused to move to the back of the bus after being told to do so by a bus driver and disobeying an order from a superior officer. Robinson was acquitted of all charges and received an honorable discharge, but this was not the only experience he would have in fighting discrimination.
After retiring from baseball, Robinson turned much of his attention to civil rights issues. He wrote to several Presidents about the cause, and even attended the March on Washington.
Many of these milestone events from Robinson’s life are documented in primary sources from the National Archives.
“‘Overseer Artayou Carrier whipped me. I was two months in bed sore from the whipping. My master come after I was whipped; he discharged the overseer.’
The very words of poor Peter, taken as he sat for his picture.”
Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 4/2/1863
This 1863 photograph of “Peter,” a former slave displaying scars from his overseer’s whippings, was widely reproduced as evidence of slavery’s cruelty. The image was sometimes paired with a photo or drawing of “Peter” after his enlistment in the U.S. Army. “Peter” was sometimes identified as “Gordon.”
On March 20, 1965, Mrs. Bertram Jeffrey sent this letter to Representative Emanuel Cellar, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, advocating for the passage of the Voting Rights Act for the continuance of a true democratic system.
Letter from Mrs. Bertram Jeffert in Favor of the Voting Rights Act, 3/20/1965, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 593573)
March 20, 1965. LBJ holds a news conference from the LBJ Ranch to announce that he has federalized the Alabama National Guard at Governor Wallace’s request.
“I have called selected elements of the Alabama National Guard into Federal Service. Additionally, I have military police put in position at both Selma and Montgomery, Alabama. In addition, we have Federal marshals, FBI agents on duty in that area at this time….
“Over the next several days the eyes of the Nation will be upon Alabama, and the eyes of the world will be upon America. It is my prayer, a prayer in which I hope all Americans will join me earnestly today, that the march in Alabama may proceed in a manner honoring our heritage and honoring all for which America stands.”
Read the full text here.
Plaintiffs’ Proposed Plan for March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965
This plan submitted to the court pertains to the march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama in support of voting rights in 1965. In association with this lawsuit, the marchers submitted a plan for the court’s approval defining their proposed route, number of participants, distance covered per day, and other details.
It’s Flashback Friday! Do you have a photograph of someone in your family in a powder blue tuxedo?
See more 1970s fashion in our new exhibit “Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project.”
Image: “Michigan Avenue, Chicago” (couple on street) Perry Riddle, Chicago, IL, July 1975. National Archives, Records of the Environmental Protection Agency.