Imagine putting your very life on the line to defend people, processes and principles and those very individuals and systems don’t even consider you a valuable creature with an equal right to walk this earth. Imagine being a Black female Army officer during a time when others refuse to salute you, extend you military courtesies and work for you.
Now, imagine the strength and fortitude of the women of the U.S. Army’s 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. As the Army’s first and only all-black, all-female WWII unit, they dealt with that harsh, discriminating treatment every single day as they served, get this, as VOLUNTEERS. In other words, they didn’t have to go through that but they did! Facing sexism, racism AND the Nazis.
In 1941, with war looming, U.S. Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts introduced a bill for the creation of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Aside from nurses, women had never before served within the ranks of the U.S. Army. With the passing of that bill and establishment of the WAAC in May 1941, more than 150,000 women volunteered overseas in Europe during WWII. On July 1, 1943, WAAC was given active duty status, becoming WAC.
The 6888th unit, consisting of a group of more than 700 African American women, was the first of those thousands of women to land in England. This unit worked around the clock in three shifts, for eight hours per shift, seven days a week, tasked with helping redirect and distribute millions of pieces of backlogged mail. Their deadline to clear the backlog was six months; however, they accomplished that
goal in three months.
Next, they set up facilities in Rouen and Paris, France to again organize mail that had gone undelivered. It was reported they handled approximately 65,000 pieces of mail per day.
A documentary was recently made featuring the unveiling and dedication of a monument in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas honoring them. Five of the six surviving women from the 6888, all age 95 and above, were at the November 30, 2018 dedication. It was reported that those brave and amazing women were looking great and doing very well.
View a trailer for the documentary here: https://vimeo.com/314562384
The unit was commanded by Charity Adams Earley, the first black woman to be an officer in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.
Earley was an intellectually gifted child, advancing grades in elementary school and finishing top of her class in high school. In college, she majored in mathematics, Latin, and physics and minored in history. She participated in the university’s branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Women’s Self-Government Association, and the Greek sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, among other groups. She graduated from Wilberforce University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1938.
She acquired many accolades throughout her adult life. Before her death on January 13, 2002, the Smithsonian National Postal Museum honored Earley for her work with the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion. Check out her bio at: https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/charity-earley