African American Women in the Military during WWII

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
One to two 45 minutes classroom periods
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
To assist students in developing analytical skills that will enable them to evaluate primary documents and images such as photographs, political cartoons and posters related to African American women during World War II.

This lesson can be integrated into a classroom activity by individual students, cross curricular with Language Arts, and/or as a cooperative learning endeavor.  Students will analyze Internet websites and access links to a variety of primary and secondary documents.

Rationale (why are you doing this?)
  • To assist students in developing analytical skills that will enable them to evaluate primary documents and images such as photographs, political cartoons and posters related to African American women during World War II
  • To introduce students to the Stanford History Educational Group’s Reading Like A Historian teaching strategies to help them investigate historical questions by employing the following reading strategies:
    • Sourcing, Contextualizing, corroborating and close reading
Lesson Objectives - the student will
  • Evaluate images (photographs, political cartoons, political cartoons and written documents via individual and cooperation learning activities
  • Think and read historical information like a historian
  • Research credible Internet websites that provide different perspectives on the role of African American women in the military during World War II
District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met

State: Nebraska 

NE Dept. of Edu.

SS 12.4.2 (US) Students will analyze and evaluate the impact of people, events, ideas, and symbols upon

US history using multiple types of sources.

SS 12.4.2.c (US) Analyze and evaluate the appropriate uses of primary and secondary sources

SS 12.4.3 (US) Students will analyze and evaluate historical and current events from multiple perspectives

SS 12.4.4.a (US) Compare and evaluate contradictory historical narratives of Twentieth-Century U.S. History

through determination of credibility, contextualization, and corroboration

SS 12.4.5.b (US) Obtain, analyze, evaluate, and cite appropriate sources for research about Twentieth-Century

U.S. History, incorporating primary and secondary sources (e.g., Cite sources using a prescribed format)

SS 12.4.5.c (US) Gather historical information about the United States (e.g., document archives, artifacts,

newspapers, interviews)

SS 12.4.5.d (US) Present an evaluation of historical information about the United States (e.g., pictures, posters,

oral/written narratives and electronic presentations)


Common Core


Key Ideas and Details

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.3 Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Craft and Structure

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.5 Analyze in detail how a complex primary source is structured, including how key sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text contribute to the whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.6 Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.8 Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.11-12.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.
Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed


Taylor, Jon E.  Freedom to Serve.  Truman, Civil Rights and Executive Order 9981.  New York: Routledge Taylor and

            Francis Group, 2013.




Buffalo Soldiers Research Museum. African American Women World War II 



Harry S. Truman Library and Museum. Teacher Lesson Plans

            Desegregation of the Armed Forces

            What Would You Do? Desegregating the Military Lesson Plan

National Association of Black Military Women.



Science Reference Services.  African American Women in the Military and at War: Selected Reading List.


The African Americans.  What was America’s double war?



Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc  .  


Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.   Brief History of Black Women in the Military


Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc   Voices of Valor.


Women in the Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.   Volunteering For Risk: Black Military

            Women Overseas during the Wars in Korea and Vietnam

Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed



Experiencing War.  African American Pioneers.



Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.  Desegregation of the Armed Forces


Library of Congress.  Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.



National Archives.  Archives Library Information Center.  “African-American Women’s Resources”


  National Archives. Research.  Pictures of African American During World War II.


Naval History and Heritage Command First Female Officers - African-Americans and the U.S. Navy


National Women’s History Museum. Partners in Winning the War. African American Women in World War II.



Pictures of African Americans during World War II.   National Archives



Stories from the Veterans History project.  African Americans at War Fighting Two Battles. Library of Congress. 


Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?



The following excerpts are from the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.   Brief History of Black Women in the Military.


American women have participated in defense of this nation in both war and peacetime. Their contributions, however, have gone largely unrecognized and unrewarded. While women in the United States Armed Forces share a history of discrimination based on gender, black women have faced both race and gender discrimination. Initially barred from official military status, black women persistently pursued their right to serve

In January 1941, the Army opened its nurse corps to blacks but established a ceiling of 56. On June 25, 1941, President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 8802 created the Fair Employment Practices Commission which led the way in eradicating racial discrimination in the defense program. In June 1943, Frances Payne Bolton, Congresswoman from Ohio, introduced an amendment to the Nurse Training Bill to bar racial bias. Soon 2,000 blacks were enrolled in the Cadet Nurse Corps.

The quota for black Army Nurses was eliminated in July 1944. More than 500 black Army nurses served stateside and overseas during the war. The Navy dropped its color ban on January 25, 1945, and on March 9, Phyllis Daley became the first black commissioned Navy nurse.

Black women also enlisted in the WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) which soon converted to the WAC (Women’s Army Corps), the Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), and the Coast Guard SPARS.

From its begin