Oral history interviews relating to his youth and his experiences, 1917-1972, as the second African-American midshipman to attend the United States Naval Academy (Class of 1941) for approximately three weeks during the summer of 1937, and his education and career as a teacher in the Washington, DC school system, 1942-1972. Received 8/26/1997, 3/23/2004.
George Joseph Trivers (1917-2000) was the second African-American midshipman to attend the United States Naval Academy (Class of 1941). Raised by his mother Claudine T. Trivers after his father walked out on the family, Trivers grew up in the Anacostia District of Washington, D.C. Helping his family get by, Trivers picked string beans on a farm during the summer, worked at the local post office around the winter holidays, and delivered newspapers year-round. As Trivers got older, he attended Dunbar High School and Miner Teachers College, graduating from Miner's as class valedictorian.
Trivers was nominated for appointment at the United States Naval Academy by Congressman Arthur Mitchell after recommendation from his high school drill instructor, Colonel Henry O. Atwood. He was sworn in as a midshipman on June 16, 1937. Trivers experienced significant discrimination and was the subject of many racist attacks while he was enlisted at the Academy. He was encouraged to resign from the Academy by commandant of midshipman Captain Forde Anderson Todd, and on July 3, 1937, Trivers submitted his resignation. He attended for approximately three weeks during the summer of 1937 before leaving the Academy. After his resignation, Mitchell attacked Trivers and smeared his reputation in the press. Triver's responded through a statement in the Washington Tribune on July 10, 1937.
Following his resignation, Trivers worked as an elevator operator in Washington, D.C. before accepting a teaching job at Shaw Junior High School in Washington, D.C. in March, 1939. Later that year he transferred to Banneker Junior High School where he taught until 1972. During his summers off, Trivers earned his master's degree from New York University. Trivers was married to Meta Lewis and the couple had three sons. He was a member of the DC-area NAACP, and he enjoyed spending time on the water, racing outboard motorboats with his sons on an east-coast circuit.
Source: Robert J. Schneller, Jr.'s Breaking the color barrier : the U.S. Naval Academy's first Black midshipmen and the struggle for racial equality
Gift of Robert J. Schneller, Jr., Historian, Contemporary History Branch Dept. of Navy, Navy Historical Center
Encoded by Nanette Hardison, March 30, 2009
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