by Matthew McCarthy
SCUA is pleased to highlight a recent acquisition for the Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project. SCUA’s acquisition includes two binders filled to the brim with an array of training materials an African American female student used for extensive training and later as an instructor for the U.S. Army’s Racial Awareness Program (RAP). The RAP was an extension of the Secretary of Defense’s Directive 1322.11, issued in June 1971 after investigations and several damning articles from the Washington Post showed how prevalent racial violence was among G.I.’s on bases/barracks. These conditions were a direct reflection of civil society in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s as a wave of social movements swept the nation.
The main purpose of Directive 1322.11 was “to provide racial harmony, thereby reducing racial tension and contributing directly to increased unit effectiveness and to achieve sympathetic understanding and treatment of each soldier by his commanders and his fellows,” according to a 1972 Commander’s Digest article. Instructor training for the RAP was extensive and spanned over a five-week period, filled with an array of lectures, demonstrations, group discussions small and large, and even field trips. General expectations for future instructors after training including independent research, developing lesson plans, and leading discussions on difficult topics.
The unidentified female student, and later instructor, composed the extent of materials provided in the binders. A rarity in relation to the US Military’s first racial sensitivity training and extent of materials. Well over 100 military publications are included in the collection, covering topics that begin with the Civil War and Reconstruction to desegregation of the Army. Other items include: lesson plans, handouts, reading assignments, summaries of teaching points, and over 50 pages of handwritten notes. The materials will be used in classes and research.
As I was researching this collection for processing and description, I was struck by how the events leading up to the implementation of the Race Relations training school were instigated by the conduct of the white G.I.s. Fragging, named for the frag grenade, became commonplace during this period and the safety of many African American G.I.’s in military barracks in Germany were at risk. The Washington Post reported that white soldiers would hide outside barracks windows to toss the grenade in at African-American soldiers, leaving them seriously injured or likely dead. It was astounding the lengths white soldiers went to and how low morale among African American soldiers was because they felt the proper channels would regard the issue of racial violence with nothing more than a bat of the eye.
Because the binders were overstuffed and the pages were hard to turn, Senior Conservator Audrey Sage created special binders and individually sleeved the 1445 pages!!! This allows researchers to examine each page without damaging them.