Fighting for Respect

Fighting for Respect

Fighting for Respect:

Father and Son Broke Barriers in the U.S. Military

Benjamin O. Davis Jr.
Tuskegee Airman and U.S. Air Force General Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

“Some have had to bear a heavier burden than others to teach us all what right looks like….”

General David L. Goldfein

When Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein spoke these words, he was honoring Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the former Tuskegee Airman who broke through the color barrier in the Air Force and achieved the rank of general in 1960—only the second Black man ever to reach that rank in our nation’s history.  But Goldfein could easily have spoken those same words about Davis Jr.’s father, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr., a career Army officer who, through perseverance and determination, became the first Black general in the U.S. military in 1940.   The father and son both served their country with distinction, though for much of their careers neither could get a cup of coffee in the same café as White soldiers. Both men would be instrumental in the eventual desegregation of the U.S. military—leaving a powerful legacy that would influence generations to come.

Benjamin O. Davis Sr., the grandson of a slave, heard the call of duty as a young man in Washington, D.C..  (There is speculation that he heard that call a little earlier than he should have—Davis likely lied about his age so that he could enlist in the Army without the permission of his parents.) Davis served with the 8th United States Volunteer Infantry, an all African-American unit in 1898, during the Spanish American War, then enlisted as a private with the 9th Cavalry “Buffalo Soldiers” in Utah, protecting settlers on the Western front.  In late 1900, Davis’s unit was commanded by Lieutenant Charles Young, the only African-American officer serving in the U.S. military at that time.  It was a pivotal moment for Davis—opening his eyes to what was possible for a Black man to achieve in the Army.  Young became a mentor to Davis, tutoring him in the subjects that would be covered on the officer’s exam that Davis would need to pass in order to advance.  On February 2, 1901, Davis passed the exam and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Cavalry in the Army, assigned as a supply officer in the Philippines.

Buffalo Soldier and U.S. Army General Benjamin O. Davis Sr.

In the years that followed, he rose slowly through the ranks.  His plodding progress wasn’t due to any failing as an officer—he was described as extremely capable by his superiors—but he was kept out of combat and moved around so that he would not be in command of White officers. Davis could only watch as other, less senior White officers leap-frogged over him and were fast-tracked to higher command positions.  But he was a role model for the next generation of Black officers, as he taught military science and tactics as a professor at Wilberforce University and the Tuskegee Institute. He was given full command of the  369th National Guard Infantry Regiment (better known as the Harlem Hellfighters of WWI fame) in 1938. 

During World War II, Davis Sr. headed a special unit charged with investigating discrimination and relieving the frustrations of segregated soldiers in the Army. The insights about African Americans’ exclusion from combat duty contained in his 1943 report helped to lay the foundation for the integration of the military by Truman in 1948.  Though he achieved more success in the Army than any African-American before him, he endured indignities and insults due only to the color of his skin; many Whites refused to salute him or acknowledge his rank even after his promotion to brigadier general in 1940 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Decorated with a Bronze Star and the Distinguished Service Medal, Brigadier General Davis retired on July 14, 1948, although his legacy would influence generations to come—including his son, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

The seeds of service were sown early in the Davis home.  The older Davis’ shared his experiences with systemic racism with his son, but also instilled in him a fierce determination to see it abolished.  And it would take all of the determination and perseverance Davis Jr. had to overcome the prejudice that would stand in his way throughout his career.

After receiving a nomination to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York (from the only Black congressman at the time), Davis would become the first Black cadet to be admitted since Reconstruction.  He was shunned by the other cadets—a punishment normally reserved for those who violate the Academy’s Honor Code.  “I was to be silenced solely because the cadets did not want blacks at West Point. Their only purpose was to freeze me out,” Davis wrote in his 1991 autobiography, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.: American. “What they did not realize was that I was stubborn enough to put up with their treatment to reach the goal I had come to obtain.” 

While a cadet, Davis had dreams of flying, but he was rejected by the Army Air Corps because their flight training was only open to White men. Instead, after graduating 35th in a class of 276, he was commissioned as an infantry second lieutenant.  At the time, the Army had only two Black infantry officers—Davis and his father.  To keep the younger Davis from commanding White units, his first assignment was to the all-Black 24th Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Ironically, it was the elder Davis who would send his son’s military career soaring when, after Davis Sr. was promoted to brigadier general, he ordered the Air Corps to create a flying squadron for Black men. The younger Davis was called to Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama to attend flight school, and after receiving his pilot’s wings, led the group of African-American pilots that would come to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

Davis deployed to the Mediterranean Theater in 1943 in command of  the 99th Fighter Squadron, flying combat missions against enemy ships and ground targets, and providing support for Allied troop landings.  The 99th Fighter Squadron merged with the 332nd Fighter Group, and Davis assumed command and deployed to Italy in 1943.  The all-Black 332nd Fighter Group flew 15,550 sorties escorting heavy bombers deep into enemy territory in the summer of 1944, and gained a reputation for excellence.  Although some White officers maintained, “the Negro type has not proper reflexes to make a first-class fighter pilot,” the bravery and skill of the Tuskegee Airmen couldn’t be denied.  

“All the Blacks in the segregated forces operated like they had to prove they could fly an airplane when everyone believed they were too stupid,” Davis Jr. wrote in his autobiography.  Davis led dozens of missions in P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs. He received the Silver Star for a strafing run into Austria and the Distinguished Flying Cross for a bomber escort mission to Munich on June 9, 1944.

Davis would go on to serve in several commands, in Europe and the United States, before the end of the war. In 1947, Davis transferred to the newly created Air Force and was tapped by President Harry S. Truman to help draft the service’s desegregation plan.  Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became the first Black general officer of the United States Air Force in May 1960.  He received his fourth star 28 years after he retired, in a 1998 White House ceremony that he attended along with fellow Tuskegee Airmen.  “He earned this honor a long time ago,” President Clinton said at that ceremony, calling Davis “a hero in war, a leader in peace, a pioneer for freedom, opportunity and basic human dignity.”

Like his father, Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.  met racism head-on and worked for greater equality throughout his military career.  That fact was recognized In 2019, when the U.S. Air Force Academy named its airfield in honor of Davis Jr., who died in 2002, saying he was “instrumental in driving this institution towards a much more diverse and a much more inclusive population, reducing attrition rates of minorities, and crucial in developing the plan to integrate women at the United States Air Force Academy.”  He was also honored in 2015, when Davis Jr.’s  name was chosen to be on a barracks at West Point.

“If you want to know what ‘Duty, Honor, Country’ look like, just read a little bit about Benjamin O. Davis Jr., and your jaw will drop because he is the epitome of what we want at a time when we didn’t know what ‘right’ looked like,” said Col. Ty Seidule, the head of West Point’s history department at the time. “So it’s our chance to acknowledge one of our greatest graduates.”

Both Benjamin O. Davis Sr. and Benjamin O. Davis Jr. led by example in a system that hadn’t previously afforded equal opportunities to minority servicemen and women.  The more than 54,000 Black officers in the military today stand on the shoulders of these and other trailblazers, and continue to combat the underrepresentation of minority officers in our armed forces.

Shirley Chisholm Paved the Way for Today’s Black Women Leaders

Shirley Chisholm Paved the Way for Today’s Black Women Leaders

Shirley Chisholm Paved the Way for Today’s Black Women Leaders

“Unbought and Unbossed”

Shirley Chisholm

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” 

– Shirley Chisholm

Black History Month got a fitting kickoff this February when voter suppression activist and politician Stacey Abrams was announced as a nominee for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.  This comes on the heels of Kamala Harris’ vice-presidential win and a record 26 Black women taking congressional seats.  After years of being shut out of politics, Black women are now transforming it.  But long before Stacey Abrams or Kamala Harris were influencing America’s political agenda, the very door these leaders would later walk through was being kicked down by an underappreciated but pivotal Black woman — Shirley Chisholm.

Chisholm made a career out of challenging the idea that only White men deserved a seat at the political table.  In 1968, Chisholm made history as the first Black woman to serve in the United States Congress.  Four years later, the feisty politician nicknamed “Fighting Shirley” again rocked the status quo by becoming the first Black woman from a major party to campaign for the country’s highest office—President of the United States.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1924, Chisholm learned about the value of hard work and the plight of the poor watching her immigrant parents struggle to provide for their four children during the Great Depression.  To make ends meet, her father, a factory worker from Guyana, and her mother, a seamstress from Barbados, made the difficult decision to send Chisholm and her sisters to live on their maternal grandmother’s farm in Barbados. Chisholm credited the excellent education she received there, along with the loving support from her grandmother, as critical to her future success.

After returning to the states, Chisholm attended high school in Brooklyn.  She was an excellent student, and upon graduating, was awarded tuition scholarships to several prestigious universities. Because she was unable to afford the room and board, the ever-practical Chisholm decided to live at home and attend Brooklyn College.  She was a standout there, both for her activism with campus organizations, and for her debating prowess.  It was during this time that Chisholm saw firsthand how Black women were barred from certain campus social clubs and  leadership roles. Looking back, Chisholm told an interviewer, “In college, I became angry.” After graduating cum laude in 1946, Chisholm would harness her anger to challenge an entire system.

YouTube video

National Archive: Clip from Accomplished Women: Shirley Chisholm (NAID 54173)

The newly-graduated teacher began her career at a daycare center, but as the saying goes, “the cream rises to the top,” and it wasn’t long before she was tapped to direct the entire operation. After she received a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1952, Chisholm was recruited to work as an educational consultant for New York City from 1959 to 1964. Working for the city gave her an inside look at local government, and at how few women were represented there.  She began volunteering with organizations that advocated for the rights of the poor and the disenfranchised—the League of Women Voters and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People among them.  She also became active in the Democratic Party, and in 1964, the woman who described herself as “literally and figuratively a dark horse,” was elected to the New York state legislature in a landslide victory; becoming only the second African-American woman to serve in Albany.

When a court-ordered redistricting created a windfall—over 80 percent of the registered voters in her reformed neighborhood district were Democrats—Chisholm saw her chance to make a bigger mark on the national stage. After defeating Black civil rights activist James Farmer for the seat, she became the first African American woman in the U.S. House of Representatives.  But Chisholm had no intention of just sitting quietly and observing, as freshmen congressmen were expected to do.  She introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation and brazenly rejected her assignment to the Agriculture Committee, forcing Democratic leaders to appoint her to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where she believed she could be of more assistance to her Brooklyn constituents. Chisholm would go on to serve in Congress until 1983, becoming a founding member of both the National Women’s Political Caucus and the National Black Caucus in 1971.

Shirley Chisholm 72 Zinn Education Project

But Chisholm’s most audacious act was yet to come when she threw her hat into the Democratic presidential primary ring in 1972, becoming the first Black candidate from a major party ever to campaign for the top spot.  The road wasn’t easy.  Chisholm faced backlash from both Black and White male leaders because she was a woman.  She was blocked from participating in televised debates, and after taking legal action, was allowed to make only one speech.  Undeterred, Chisholm ran on the campaign slogan, “Unbought and Unbossed,” attracting students, women and minorities to the “Chisholm Trail.”  Despite meager financial support—she paid for much of her campaign with her own credit card—Chisholm was able to win 152 delegate votes with her gutsy and honest style.

Although George McGovern would become the presidential nominee that year and face Richard Nixon, winning had never been Chisholm’s only goal.  Her real objective, in a race where one of the candidates was George Wallace of  “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” infamy, was to open the door for other Black and female candidates, and to make sure that minority voices were included in the national conversation.

Chisholm died in 2005, just three years before Barack Obama was sworn in as the first Black President of the United States.  She undoubtedly would have been thrilled to see that barrier finally crossed by a Black man, and perhaps even happier to know that our new Vice-President Kamala Harris, a multi-racial woman who is also the child of immigrants, considers herself simply “American.”  Because as Chisholm believed, “we must reject not only the stereotypes that others hold of us, but also the stereotypes that we hold of ourselves,” if we are to truly rise.


Background sources for this article include:  Unbought and Unbossed, Shirley Chisholm’s autobiography published by Take Root Media, 40th Edition,  2010; The Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives; and The National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian



The Christmas and Hanukkah holidays also correspond with Kwanzaa, which is celebrated from Dec. 26- Jan. 1. Kwanzaa provides Black Americans with a special opportunity to connect back to our roots. And there are some startling parallels between what we see going on in our communities today and what was happening when Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga in 1966. The Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965 began when an African-American motorist was stopped by police for suspected drunk driving, but the situation quickly escalated into a fight between police and onlookers and over 6 days, left 1,000 injured and 34 dead, 23 of whom were shot by LAPD officers or National Guardsmen. The Black community was left reeling and raw from the ordeal, and sharply divided between shopkeepers with looted, burned out storefronts that wouldn’t be rebuilt and those who believed violent protests were the only remedy to the inequality and poverty that dominated their lives. Dr. Karenga, who was chairman of Pan-African Studies at California State University, was looking for a way to help heal and reunite the Black community, and created Kwanzaa the year after the riots. If you haven’t taken a look at the holiday, it might be time to do so—we are once again a community struggling with systemic racism and how best to eradicate it—and we could all use a little light in these darker winter days. 

The name Kwanzaa comes from matunda ya kwanza which means “first fruits” in Swahili. It isn’t religious, but instead honors tradition and is a celebration of unity and ancestry that is meant to deepen our understanding of our heritage. It’s also meant to be fun—seven days of poetry reading, African drums, dancing, storytelling, and a large traditional meal. On each of the seven nights, the family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the kinara (candelabra),while one of the seven principles is emphasized. Dr. Karenga describes these principles on his Official Kwanzaa Website as:

Umoja, Unity
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.

Kujichagulia, Self-Determination
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves.

Ujima, Collective Work and Responsibility
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa, Cooperative Economics
To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia, Purpose
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba, Creativity
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani, Faith
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Char McCargo Bah

Char McCargo Bah

Char McCargo Bah

Photo of Char McCargo Bah by Steven Halperson of Tisara Photography

Char McCargo Bah

Char McCargo Bah is the CEO/Owner of FindingThingsforU, LLC. She retired from the Federal government as a Senior Policy Writer and Researcher. She has undergrad degrees in Urban Studies and African-American Studies. Char holds professional certificates in genealogy, publishing, investigation, research and paralegal. She has been a genealogist since 1981; appearing in numerous television interviews and documentaries.

She is currently working on the Virginia Theological Seminary’s Reparation Project and the Alexandria, Virginia Public Housing Project in locating descendants. She is a 2020 Virginia Humanities Scholar. Char has received numerous awards such as being nominated in 2019 for Who Who’s in America. She will appear in the 2020 Who Who’s in America publication. In 2014, she became Alexandria, Virginia’s Living Legend.

She is the author of two books and a short story in an anthology. Her most recent book was published in 2019, “Alexandria’s Freedmen’s Cemetery: A Legacy of Freedom.” Her second book published in 2013, “African Americans of Alexandria, VA: Beacons of Light in the Twentieth Century.” Her short story was published in 2006 in an anthology book, “Everyday Grace, Everyday Miracle: Living the Life You Were Born to Live, Angels In A Time of Need.” She is a freelance writer on local history for her column, “The Other Alexandria,” in the Alexandria Gazette Newspaper. She is a member of a dozen genealogical societies, which includes, National Genealogical Society, Virginia Genealogical Society, Fairfax Genealogical Society, Afro-American Historical Genealogical Society and numerous historical and writing societies and organizations.

Safely Savor a Socially-Distanced Thanksgiving

Safely Savor a Socially-Distanced Thanksgiving

Like most things in 2020, Thanksgiving is going to look a little different this year. Want to play it safe without canceling your gathering altogether?  Health experts from the CDC to Dr. Oz have recommendations—and we think these might come in handy for your holiday:

Size Matters

Experts suggest you keep your group under 10, but consider the size of your home in calculating how many people you can safely invite.  If there isn’t room for 10 people to sit 6 feet away from one another while eating, then 10 is too many for your home.

Have a Game Plan

Decide ahead of time what the house rules will be.  Will you enforce mask wearing when not eating? Will you require guests to take their temperature before coming in?  Let everyone know before arriving what your expectations are for the gathering.

Keep it Fresh

Keep fresh air circulating by opening windows in rooms where people congregate.  Even better in warmer climates—sit outside under porches or pop-up canopies.

Ban the Buffet

Going down a buffet line and using the same servingware puts everyone at higher risk.  Designate one person (wearing a mask) to do all of the serving, or pre-plate all of the food.

Think Throw-Away

Use disposable cloths in the bathroom rather than hand towels, and paper towels in place of cloth napkins. Use single-use condiments, such as salt and pepper packages. Have disposable masks on hand for before and after the meal for anyone who might have forgotten theirs.

Don’t Skip on Sanitizer

Put hand sanitizer out in several easy-to-access areas and remind guests to use it.  Better yet, give each guest their own personal travel hand sanitizer to use throughout the day.

Go Virtual

Skip safety concerns completely by celebrating online.   Zoom just announced that it will be lifting its regular 40-minute limit on Thanksgiving Day, so you won’t have to worry about getting cut off mid-toast.  Designate the family organizer to host and the natural comedian among you to “emcee.” And plan to keep it short while offering one activity everyone can participate in, like a centerpiece competition or showing off pie and chatting over dessert.

Want more tips for keeping your loved ones safe over the holidays? Click here to check out the CDC Holiday Guide.

Happy Thanksgiving

How are you handling the hijacked holiday?

We couldn’t help but wonder how our readers are handling this hijacked holiday.  Is the uptick in infections causing you to take your celebration entirely virtual?  Or have you found a creative way to incorporate some of your favorite Thanksgiving rituals and traditions into a safe celebration?

We want to hear from you!  Tell us what you are doing for Thanksgiving this year—what new traditions are you starting, what family favorites are you sticking with, and how are you adding safety to the holiday mix?

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    Horn in the Corn

    Horn in the Corn

    The Horn In The Corn

    Rev. Ronald V. Myers, Sr., M.D. Chairman, National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign playing the trumpet in a corn field

    Rev. Ronald V. “Doc” Myers, MD; 1933 – 2018; Chairman, National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign

    Juneteenth: America’s Second Independence Day

    Juneteenth, or the “19th of June,” recognizes June 19, 1865 in Galveston, TX when Union General Gordon Granger announced freedom for all slaves in the Southwest. Texas was the last of the states in rebellion after The Civil War to allow slavery. General Granger’s announcement came in the form of General Order #3, which he read from the steps of Ashton Villa in Galveston. 

    This occurred more than two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln and more than two months after the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865.  General Granger’s announcement was received with great joy and celebration by the newly freed slaves, as well as uncertainty on where to go or what to do with their newly acquired freedom. Few had scarecely dared to dream that this day would one day be a reality.

    Their journeys would take them to every corner of the United States and their lives would go in many different directions. However, the one thing that all took with them was the memory of the day they became free. Juneteenth became an annual celebration and thus was established as America’s Second Independence Day Celebration and the oldest African American holiday observance which continues to be celebrated today across the nation as the date that through out the United States freedom finally rang… for all!

    “I hope the US Congress will pass legislation to make Juneteenth Independence Day a National Day of observance, like Flag Day or Patriot Day … and that President Barack Obama, the first African-American President in US history, will also issue a Juneteenth Presidential Proclamation, so that Juneteenth will be officially placed on all calendars.” (Doc Myers)

    Forty-two states now recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday or special day of observance. YOU CAN HELP!

    • Visit to sign a petition.
    • Organize and attend Juneteenth rallies and celebrations.
    • Write and call your congressional leaders.

    Our Heritage Magazine joins with Doc Myers in this campaign. We hope you will join us too.

    The Rev. Ronald V. “Doc” Myers, Sr., M.D., physicians and medical missionary in the Mississippi Delta, was also a jazz musician, well-known for his “trumpeting” all over the country and anywhere he can bring the special “magic” of the Blues, especially to promote “June is Juneteenth African American Jazz Legacy Month.” –

    Family Reunions: A Summer Tradition

    Family Reunions: A Summer Tradition

    Family Reunions

    A Summer Tradition

    by Anita R. Paul, Contributing Writer

    Fagan Family Reunion

    (left to right) Tara Jean Fagan, Golden Fagan Jr, Jean B. Fagan, Gertrude Fagan Williams

    Summertime often conjures up thoughts of fun in the sun, outdoors activities, vacations, barbecues, or relaxation. Summer is also a time for reunions. What better time of year for families or classmates to reunite and reignite the bonds that keep family and friends at the core of our existence.

    Years ago, when families lived nearby, every day was a family reunion. There were dinners at grandma’s house, sleepovers at an auntie’s house, football at the cousin’s place, or perhaps yard work to be done at the home of an elderly relative. Nowadays, families are scattered across the country. Members have moved to different towns, faraway cities, distant states, and foreign countries. So, family reunions are a special occasion to catch up on what has happened over the years.

    In the midst of a family reunion, where old and young gather to strengthen kinship ties, one would be hard-pressed to accept or even understand the incessant debate about the deterioration of the black family. By their very nature, reunions promote progress and hope. This coming together is the perfect chance to share the good news – new jobs, the birth of children, new homes, marriages, anniversaries, graduations, trips taken, and the like.

    Fagan Family Reunion

    (left to right) Violet Fagan Hood, Audrey Fagan Brown, Eloise Fagan Boykins, and Ernestine Fagan Field

    More Than a Picnic

    In his 2002 research paper, “More Than a Picnic: African American Family Reunions,” Ione D. Vargus, chair of the Family Reunion Institute at Temple University, shares some of the important life aspects that reunions transmit:

    • Values
    • Identity
    • Love, concern, and belonging
    • Communication
    • Role models
    • Education
    • Passing on traditions

    In the same paper written for the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life, Vargus describes how African American family reunions have become structured and somewhat institutionalized. Through this research of 14 three-day reunions between South Carolina and Massachusetts, he noted the structural growth and sophistication of family reunions, as well as the positive economic outcomes that sometimes result from the gatherings. These include family clubs that meet regularly throughout the year; bylaws that set the date of the reunion, as well as certain requirements and prohibitions, such as political rallying; scholarship funds designed to assist family members who cannot afford to travel to the reunions or for elders living on a fixed income; family investment clubs to assist with reunion planning expenses; fundraising to help with funerals, births, and the like; networking to share the talents and skills of family members; and philanthropic efforts to support common interests such as historically black colleges.

    Fagan Family Reunion

    (standing left to right) Gertrure Fagan Williams, Golden Fagan JR; Emmaline Washinton (seated)

    National Scope

    The National Black Family Reunion, organized 25 years ago by the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), has become a nationwide institution. This two-day cultural event celebrates the strengths and traditional values of the African American family. Held in Washington, DC in September, the event attracted upwards of 250,000 people in 2010. Similar large-scale reunions have cropped up across the country under the NCNW’s guidance, including the Midwest Regional Black Family Reunion Celebration in Cincinnati, Ohio which attracts an audience of 100,000 and in Los Angeles, attracting upwards of 500,000.

    Without a doubt, reunions will continue to be a part of the heritage of African Americans. As Vargus notes, African American family reunions are controlled by the family, and as such represent an institution independent of government or other outside financial influences. Vargus notes, “The participants are willing; the goals are meaningful.”

    Fagan Family Reunion

    ( left to right) Jerry Fagan, Gertrude Fagan Williams, Eliouse Fagan Boykins, and Violet Fagan Hood

    Women’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Goes Virtual

    Women’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp Goes Virtual

    Virtual format now available to women throughout the Workforce Solutions Alamo Area 

    San Antonio, Texas, July 7, 2020 – Workforce Solutions Alamo (WSA) is hosting a series of virtual entrepreneurship workshops for women in English and Spanish. This workshop, previously an in-person series, is now available virtually due to recent public health concerns. This is a half-day Women’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for women entrepreneurs and business owners. Participants will have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a UTSA Small Business Development Center advisor at no cost after the bootcamp, to receive guidance on the process of business startup and growth.  

    There is no fee for this webinar for eligible participants. Eligibility is as follows: 

    • Women 18 years of age and older 
    • Either U.S. citizens or non-citizens authorized to work in the U.S. 
    • Resident of one of the following counties: Atascosa, Bandera, Bexar, Comal, Frio, Gillespie, Guadalupe, Karnes, Kendall, Kerr, McMullen, Medina, Wilson

    Workforce Solutions Alamo recognizes the impact of women-owned businesses on the Alamo Area economy. “We are happy that with the new virtual format more women will be able to participate in this terrific opportunity. Women-owned businesses are a vital part of the Alamo Area economy, and our Business Service team is here to help all Alamo Area businesses succeed,” said Tiffany Harris, Workforce Solutions Alamo Business Engagement Manager.


    • Start Smart (9-11 a.m.), Marketing & Sales (11 a.m.-12 p.m.), Introduction to Social Media (12-1 p.m.)
    • This one-day bootcamp is offered various dates virtually from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
    • English Dates: 8/3/2020 
    • Spanish Dates: 7/27/2020, 8/24/2020 

    For more information or to register, visit, email [email protected], or call (210) 458-2460. 

    This bootcamp series is in partnership with the UTSA Small Business Development Center Network, The Alamo Colleges Central Texas Technology Center, Costal Bend College, and the Hondo Economic Development Council, and is made possible through a grant from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). 

    Register at

    A Tribute to a Member of the Forgotten Troop – Maude Virginia Porter-Miller

    A Tribute to a Member of the Forgotten Troop – Maude Virginia Porter-Miller

    A Tribute to a Member of the Forgotten Troop:  6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

    Maude Virginia Porter-Miller: Our Mother and Our Hero

    Contributed by Debra Jones

    Maude Virginia Porter - Miller

    In 1944, our country was engaged in WWII and my mother was living her dream of attending college at Howard University, in Washington, D.C., to obtain her degree in home economics.  When my mother heard that the military needed volunteers to go overseas, she jumped at the opportunity to serve her country, as well as experience an adventure of a lifetime and she joined the Army.  Her country called and she answered with, “Yes, I will!”  She entered the military on October 2, 1944.  This was the beginning of our mother’s life of service to her country and community.

    After my mother’s troop arrived in England and they were shown the challenge before them, she tackled the task just as she approached everything in life—with a positive attitude.   Even though they were not living in the best lodging conditions, it never affected her at work or how she saw the current task as an opportunity and adventure.  What I learned from my mother is how to look at situations from different perspectives, and how to turn a negative situation into an opportunity…to do this one needs a vision.

    My mother was a loving, caring, and supportive person who always loved to help others reach their goals.  Her life reflected that in everything she did including her work in the military and in her community.  For example, she started Town and Country Nursery School for the mothers in her community who wanted to look for viable employment.  In addition, there was the art program for teenagers on the weekend to explore their creativity.  Mom was always looking for different ways to help others, especially children, to experience new things and have opportunities to elevate themselves.  For instance, Mom and Dad went to the Cook County Commissioner for Blue Island Township and requested permission to form a fundraising group called the Cook County Community Organization that raised money for underprivileged children to go to summer camp.  Mom also formed a women’s club called the South Suburban Socialites, another fundraising group that raised money to train girls to become young women with goals. 

    Mom always made herself available to lend a helping hand to her family and community.  As a member of the Volunteer Service Guild for Provident Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, she helped to raise money to purchase needed hospital equipment.  She was also a foster parent, until she became ill, to many children in the Los Angeles area.  Her home was known as one of the best foster homes in Los Angeles County.

    Reflecting on all my mother’s accomplishments, it makes me proud to be called her daughter.  I think about the good times we had fixing up our house on Vista Laguna Terrace and I remember what I thought when I saw that old house:  “What was she thinking?”  But my mom did not see an old house.  She saw a beautiful home.  We worked together to make that house the home she knew it could be—one where loving, beautiful memories of family gatherings for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinners would be cherished forever in our hearts.  I will never forget the wonderful birthday parties and helping her prepare for bridge parties, although at times I did not want to help.  What I realize now, later in life, is that every household task that I had to do was for a purpose.  It was to prepare me for the future.  Every skill she taught me I have had to use during my lifetime; from cooking, sewing and hosting events to having an excellent work ethic.  All I can say is, “Thank you, Mom.”

    When I think of my mom, I think of an extraordinary human being.  In her lifetime she touched countless lives and influenced so many people to pursue their dreams.  My mom had so much love in her heart and she shared that with all the people that came into her life.  She loved and supported and encouraged us all by being a good listener and assisting each of us according to our needs.

    I love and miss you, Mom.

    6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

    6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

    6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

    The Forgotten Battalion of WWII

    WWII All African American Women Army Corps

    Women of Courage, Tenacity & Strength

    Written by Lori Stephenson

    Maj. Charity Adams Inspecting the Troops of 6888th Postal Directory Battlion
    Major Charity Adams inspecting the troops February 15, 1945 in Birmingham, England.

    For the most part we, here in America, take the daily delivery of mail for granted.  It is a pretty sure bet that if you drop a piece of first-class mail in the box at the local post office, it will make it to its destination, anywhere coast-to-coast in the USA, within three to four days tops.  For our military men and women deployed overseas, however, mail is a highly valued and much awaited item that, even with today’s automated systems, can take weeks or more to catch up with them.  When mail call comes there are anxious soldiers waiting for that “letter from home” with the latest pictures and stories of the loved ones they have left behind.

    Never are these letters and care packages from home more valuable and vital to morale than when our soldiers are in harm’s way in hostile situations.  This is also when it is the hardest to deliver due to a number of factors including frequent troop movements and limited supply chains and carriers.  This was exactly the situation that our troops were in during the winter of 1945 in WWII.  As they made their way across Western Europe and into Germany’s homeland, a tremendous backlog of undelivered mail built up and the morale of the sleep deprived and battle-weary soldiers was sinking.  Facing a severe shortage of manpower and growing pressure to give African American women a more active role in the war, the Army made an unprecedented decision and the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion (The Six Triple Eight) was formed.

    The “6888” has a long list of “firsts” and accomplishments to its credit.  Comprised of 855 women, of which 824 were enlisted and 31 were officer, it was the first African American all-female battalion.  The “list of firsts” was contributed to by the battalion’s commanding officer, Maj. Charity Adams.  A member of the first female officer training class in Iowa and the first African American female commissioned officer, she became the highest ranking African American female officer by the end of the war, when she was promoted to Lt. Colonel.

    The “6888” was the first and only all-women battalion to be deployed overseas.  They faced threatening conditions soon after they set sail for Europe.  On their two-week trek across the Atlantic Ocean, they survived brushes with German U-boats that were close enough that their ship was forced to maneuver so sharply that it sent pots and pans clanging down to the floor.  Then, upon their arrival in Glasgow, Scotland on February 14, 1945, they were greeted by a German V-1 rocket, known as a Buzz Bomb, which sent them running for shelter across the slippery snow-covered ground.  After their eventful arrival, they immediately boarded a train and headed to Birmingham, England.


    Major Charity Adams at the grand opening of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion refreshment bar.
    Major Charity Adams at the grand opening of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion refreshment bar.

    The first few days of their assignment in Europe were a whirlwind.  Once the exhausted women arrived in England there was no time for relaxing and settling in.  They were hurriedly assigned to their quarters and directed to their posts.  Just three short days after stepping foot on dry ground, they had already marched through the streets of Birmingham in perfect formation, prepared for and been inspected by a general, and worked at least two shifts each.

    Their assignment was to sort and redirect the delivery of the millions of backlogged letters and packages that had all but ceased to be delivered before their arrival.  Some of the mail had already been delayed by as much as two years.  The women immediately saw the need for a better process and went to work developing a new system that would break the bottleneck and get the stacks of mail that were packed to the ceiling in three air hangars delivered as quickly as possible.  In order to do this, they would need to create and maintain current information cards for each of more than 7 million United States Army, Navy, Air Force, civilian and Red Cross personnel in the European Theater of Operation (ETO).  Because of troop and personnel movements, many of the cards had to be updated several times a month.  To make matters even more challenging, many of the letters lacked proper addresses.  It was not uncommon for a letter to be addressed, “Junior, US Army.”  Even when they were addressed with full names, it was far from easy.  According to military records, there were approximately 7,500 “Robert Smiths” in the ETO, and each one had to be identified with a serial number, tracked and kept straight.


    6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion sorting mail
    Members of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion sorting mail.

    Their working conditions in the converted hangars did not make it any easier.  The windows were blacked out to prevent detection and targeting during nighttime enemy air raids.  This meant no light from what little sun shone through the dismal winter skies during the day and contributed to very low lighting conditions, which made eyestrain a constant nuisance.  Heat in the warehouses was practically nonexistent during what was an unusually cold winter, even for England.  This meant the women were wearing long johns and whatever else they could manage to fit under their coats, just to stave off the numbing cold.

    Then there were the daily challenges of “dual segregation.”  They were segregated both as women and as African Americans.  The women of the “6888” were not allowed to sleep, shower or eat in the same facilities as the other female personnel and soldiers.  They were housed in what had previously been a boarding school and while most of the “6888” were designated postal clerks, due to segregation, some of the women took on service and support positions—operating their own mess hall, make-shift hair salon, motor pool and supply rooms—making the 6888th almost entirely self-sufficient.

    Despite these challenges, the “6888” worked tenaciously around the clock.  There were 3 eight-hour shifts per day, seven days a week.  Their task was daunting, but they knew that for the soldiers in the field, letters from loved ones brought important personal connections that kept morale high.  Each shift averaged 65,000 pieces of mail going out for delivery to soldiers across Europe.  The women took great satisfaction in knowing that they were able to improve the quality of life and provide some semblance of comfort to the millions of soldiers that were so far from home.

    6888 Central Postal Directory Battalion Marching in Birmingham, England 1945
    6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion marching in Birmingham, England, led by Major Charity Adams (February 1945).

    When they had been assigned to Birmingham, it was supposed to be a six-month assignment.  However, they completed their assignment in half that time.  In May of 1945, just three months after arriving in Europe, they had done the impossible and cleared the backlog.  Their efforts were so successful that they were reassigned to Rouen, France, to get the mail moving there.

    The treatment and living conditions in Rouen, and later during their final assignment in Paris, was quite different than what they had experienced in England.  The task was still difficult, the work schedule still relentless, the segregation ever-present, but the overall living conditions were better than what many of the women had experienced at home.  While in France they were housed in a luxurious hotel with maids to clean their rooms and chefs to prepare their meals.  No more cold, drafty mess halls, and the “meat of the day” was no longer Spam.

    While in France, they were invited to participate in the parade held in Rouen’s Place du Vieux- Marché, the historical place where Joan of Arc died.  Even the parade was different.  While they marched through the streets of Birmingham, England, it had been amid curious onlookers and the watchful eye of inspecting officers dissecting their every step.  In France, they were part of a celebration.  People were happy and cheering and calling out good wishes for them.  In spite of the heavy workload, for many of the women their time here would truly be “the time of their lives.”

    It once again took the women only three months to achieve the same staggering results in Rouen, France that they had in Birmingham, England.  From Rouen they were sent to Paris, an assignment which would turn out to be their last when the war ended a short time later.  The “6888” was immediately shipped back home to Fort Dix, New Jersey, having performed above and beyond expectations.  Out of the 855 members of the battalion, three lost their lives during the war.  Those honorable women were laid to rest in France.

    Upon the 6888th Battalion’s arrival home, there were no parades or reporters swarming them with questions or taking photos.  There were no cheering crowds to welcome them and congratulate them on a job well done.  Instead, the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion was quietly disbanded without fanfare and the women dispersed.  Some continued to serve in the military, but most retired and went home with their story largely untold, their sacrifices unrecognized, and their successes uncelebrated.

    Sixty-four long years later, in February of 2009, a U.S. Army support group called the Freedom Team Salute held a ceremony at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.  Of the 855 women who comprised the “6888,” only three survivors could be located and brought to the ceremony.

    Colonel David Griffith, director of Freedom Team Salute, gave the following address at the ceremony:

    “For the morale of Soldiers in war time, only one thing counts more than somewhere to sleep or something to eat.  That one thing is mail from home—holiday greetings, photographs, regular letters, and packages filled with items from relatives and friends.  The 6888th Battalion broke all records for redistribution of mail to front line troops in the European theatre.

    “Honoring the women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion with Commendation is long overdue.  These were strong women who faced prejudice in the United States, but still managed to complete their mission, putting their Country ahead of their own trials.  They did not have the luxury of working with automation equipment to help them organize, sort and distribute the millions of letters and packages that had accumulated in airplane hangars and other places in Europe.  They are a true American story that needs to be told.”

    We here at Our Heritage Magazine Online agree.  Their story is one that needs to be told so that we may remember these women for the courage, tenacity and perseverance that led them to achieve so much in so short a time.

    Photographs Courtesy of the United States Army Women’s Museum—Fort Lee, VA

    Visit the museum’s webpage at

    Special thanks to Debra Jones for collecting photographs and other efforts to help make this tribute possible.

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