Collection consists of a photograph album with leather decorative cover belonging to James R. Coles, an African American who served in the U.S. Navy Reserve during World War II. Accompanying paperwork and insignia badges (1943-1944) indicates he was a motor machinist's mate and was appointed apprentice petty officer first class. The album contains mostly unidentified photographs of African American sailors in training, aboard a train, and with possible girlfriends and family. Two shots also depict the sailors with their white commanding officer. Also included are autograph pages that his fellow sailors signed and listed their home addresses.
James Robert Coles, Jr., served in the U.S. Navy Reserve during World War II as Apprentice Petty Officer 1st Class. He attended the Hampton Institute in 1943 where he was certified as a Class "A" Motor Machinist's Mate. As an African-American man, Coles entered the armed forces as de-segregation efforts were first beginning to take place.
The James R. Coles Collection contains a U.S. Navy photo log kept by James Robert Coles, Jr. during his service in WWII. There is an assortment of material documenting Coles' time in the Navy. An official navy certificate, along with two insignia patches, indicates that Coles achieved the rank of Petty Officer 1st class. He attended the Hampton Institute where he completed naval training school. There he received his certificate, appointing him to Class "A" Motor Machinist's Mate (December 30, 1943). Another certificate appoints him to Motor Machinist's Mate Second Class (July 14, 1944).
Fifty-five photographs reveal more intimate details of Coles' life. The photographs show Coles and his fellow African-American recruits posing in dress whites. Two of these photos feature a white commanding officer posing with the group. Coles travelled by train to his assignment, seen here posing with friends in train cars and on the tracks. The album continues to show the men on leave with their fashionably dressed girlfriends. Also featured here are the men in their blue navy uniforms on docks and standing at attention. Five photos show the men with rifles and helmets and a final photo shows a group of men in uniform in front of a military building.
Two newspaper articles recognize the contributions of African Americans serving in the armed forces at the time. The headlines read "Negroes Train with Whites as R.O.T.C. Flyers" and "Lack of Supplies Never a Factor in Pacific War." Coles is recognized by name in the latter. Another article, "Jim Crow Spreads His Wings over Pacific to Philippines," discusses the ramifications of American racial segregation in the Philippines. Also in the collection is a log of signatures from friends made during his service and a novelty naval certificate marking his first passage over the equator.
Purchased from Between The Covers Rare Books, Gloucester City, N.J.
Processsing completed June 27, 2017, by Megan Turner.
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.