World War II
The world crisis in the 1930s pressured the need for more manpower, and the U.S. Navy actively recruited African Americans, though they were still restricted to messman and serviceman rates. In World War II, due to a combination of political pressure, heroic achievements from Sailors such as Doris Miller, the willingness of African Americans to serve, and with wartime necessities, the Navy opened up all enlisted rates to both African American men and women in 1942. As the war progressed, the officer corps opened up to African American men in March 1944 with the Golden Thirteen and with the first women officers that December.
Image: 208-NP-8B-2 William Baldwin, first U.S. Navy African American enlisted recruit for General Service, June 2, 1942. Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox is to Baldwin's left. Office of War Information photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.