George Joseph Trivers Oral History Interview

January 31, 1997; July 29, 1997
Oral History #OH0234
Schneller, Robert J.; Trivers, George Joseph
Physical description
0.01 Cubic Feet, 2 audiocassettes, 1 compact disc, 1.5 hours, 44 pages
Preferred Citation
George Joseph Trivers Oral History Interview (#OH0234), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

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.

Biographical/historical information

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

Administrative information
Source of acquisition

Gift of Robert J. Schneller, Jr., Historian, Contemporary History Branch Dept. of Navy, Navy Historical Center

Processing information

Encoded by Nanette Hardison, March 30, 2009

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

General note


Key terms
Personal Names
Trivers, George Joseph
Corporate Names
United States Naval Academy--Students
African American men--Washington (D.C.)--Interviews
African American midshipmen--Washington (D.C.)
African American teachers--Washington (D.C.)--Interviews
Education--Washington (D.C.)