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Black Military Photograph Collection

Identifier: P033

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of 262 black and white photographs of African Americans in military service during World War II. Photographs depict soldiers in combat, receiving honors or awards, performing duties, training, recovering from injuries, and enjoying leisure activities. Some portraits of soldiers are also included.


  • Creation: 1942-1946

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Use

All images are official U.S. military photographs and in the public domain. There are no known restrictions.

Biographical / Historical

During World War II, over 16 million Americans served in the armed forces, but fewer than two million of those were African Americans. The majority of these servicemen and women served only in supporting roles or units including segregated Transportation, Engineer and Quartermaster units. By 1945, mounting casualties forced the military to start placing more African American troops into combat or direct action roles. They served with honor and distinction as infantrymen, pilots, tankers, medics, and officers and directly contributed to President Harry S. Truman's decision to desegregate the U.S. armed forces in 1948.


2 Boxes

.075 Linear feet (2 document storage boxes, one is standard width and the other has 2.5" width. )


Series 1: Army, 1942-1946
Series 2: Navy, 1942-1945
Series 3: Marines, 1944
Series 4: Army Air Corps, 1944
Series 5: Coast Guard, 1942-1946
Series 6: Printed Materials, 1944

Custodial History

Photographs were discovered in the staff office of the Library's Black Studies Division in the mid-2000s by a staff member. There is no documentation pertaining to the donation of these images to the Library.

Processing Information

Original processing of the photographs included their removal from construction paper mounts, organization by branch of service and subdivision into subject groupings. Each photograph was placed in protective sleeves and all attached labels were removed and photocopied. Subsequent processing further refined the collection's organization and preservation efforts.

Black Military Photograph Collection
An inventory of the Black Military Photograph Collection at DC Public Library
David Edmonds (2009) Mark Greek (2019)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001