October 19: Today in 1944, The U.S. Navy Began Allowing Black Women to Serve as Ranking Officers

0 Posted by - October 19, 2020 - On This Date

Photo credits: The Naval History and Heritage Command

On Oct. 19, 1944, the U.S. Navy began admitting African-American women to serve as administrative officers in the Women’s Reserve of the U.S. Navy.

On July 30, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Navy Women’s Reserve Act into law, creating what was commonly known as the WAVES — Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service — a division of the U.S. Navy created during World War II to free up male personnel for sea duty.

Little did anyone know that the resulting influx of women in the U.S. Navy would last far beyond the World War II “emergency” for which they had been recruited.

President F.D. Roosevelt’s action paved the way for the breakthrough for black women in America’s armed forces, which would come a few years later.

Of the more than 80,000 women serving during World War II, only 72 were African-American. The U.S. military’s history of racial segregation formally came to an end on July 26, 1948.

That was the date when President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, the legislation that integrated all branches of the U.S. armed forces.

References: Middleton, B. (2012 October 19) This Day in Black History: Oct. 19, 1944. Retrieved from https://www.bet.com/news/national/2012/10/19/this-day-in-black-history-oct-19-1944.html

Cipolloni, D. (2017 March 03) Remembering Navy WAVES During Women’s History Month. Retrieved from https://www.defense.gov/Explore/News/Article/Article/1102371/remembering-navy-waves-during-womens-history-month/

*BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.

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