Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

<p><b>Navy Corpsmen Evacuating Wounded</b></p>

African Americans in the Navy after World War II through the Korean War

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African Americans in the Navy after World War II through the Korean War

After World War II, the Navy instituted a new directive on 27 February 1946, opening up general service assignments without any restriction on race. In Circular Letter 48-46, the Navy ordered that "Effective immediately all restrictions governing types of assignments for which Negro naval personnel are eligible are hereby lifted. Henceforth, they shall be eligible for all types of assignments in all ratings in all activities and all ships of the naval service.”


President Truman ended formal racial segregation in all the armed forces in 1948 by executive order. Opportunities gradually expanded for African Americans in the Navy and in society from the late 1940s and 1950s, a time marked by the Korean War and the Cold War. During that period, Ensign Wesley A. Brown became the first African American graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. Ensign Jesse L. Brown became the first African American naval aviator also giving his life performing his duty during the Korean War. Despite the progress and opportunities that were opened in this period, it was still difficult for African Americans to move out of their traditional roles.