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Camp Howze Museum

Segregated Minority Service Members

Pervasive racism used to justify separate and unequal living standards for millions of Black Americans plagued the nation in World War II as the Commander in Chief worked to rally America's defenses. While many Americans sought to unite in the face of oppression from abroad, others defended oppression at home and resisted calls by civil rights advocates to fully integrate the military. Instead of welcoming the opportunity to live up to its professed democratic principles of equality, the nation continued to employ Black Americans within a segregated military system. That system limited their station locations, enlistment opportunities, promotions, training, and education for skilled positions and made every effort to minimize their presence in the U.S. Armed Forces. The government's decision to construct military training camps in southern states where Jim Crow guaranteed second-class status for Black citizens added another obstacle in the way of civil rights advocates. Despite the need for unity, the American people remained divided socially and politically, which impacted life at Camp Howze. 

Each week the camp's newspaper, the Camp Howze Howitzer, printed stories to inform its service members, military families, and volunteers about the camp and projected an image of a strong and unified army they could all support. It shared photos, updates, announcements, and jokes to keep morale high and troops motivated. Its publication printed thousands of photographs and stories about people's daily activities and achievements at Camp Howze. There was no shortage of evidence that Camp Howze was full of life while war-related activities occurred around the clock for four years. Yet, comparable depictions of Black service members were conspicuously scarce in all publications circulating throughout the region, including the Camp Howze Howitzer.  Unfortunately, the racist beliefs enshrined into law and enforced by military policies hid from view so much of Black Americans' contributions to the war effort. With very few exceptions, the Camp Howze Howitzer was a window into life as a "white" soldier. Though it occasionally published stories about immigrant soldiers, Jewish soldiers, Latino soldiers, Filipino, Chinese, and Japanese American soldiers, the paper filled its pages with faces and accounts of "white" service members and civilians.

Separated from the story, Black Americans appeared to have little impact on the war effort at Camp Howze, though they were likely the largest minority group there. According to former Gainesville Daily Register reporter and local author Betty Stephenson's 1991 book memorializing Camp Howze, approximately 2,000 black soldiers were stationed at the camp. Whether in the Army Service Forces or as members of detachments to the Army Ground Forces, or Army Air Corps, or as a woman officer in the Army Nurse Corps, Black service members, and citizen volunteers were present at Camp Howze in numbers that took a significant and concerted effort to ignore; a well-produced illusion designed to satisfy the demand of those who insisted some people were more equal than others.