My research is in its final stages as I finalize my report and get ready for Denver. I have been working on segregation and integration within Gateway’s forts and I am amazed by how soon my time here will be complete. During my work, I have found the stories of those who worked within the military complexes that make up Gateway. This week I wanted to share some of the information I have found over the past few weeks. My work has focused on the presence of minorities on Floyd Bennett Field during World War II. It was known as US Naval Air Station, NY and was the busiest air station during the war. In the beginning of the war, African American men were only allowed to join the Navy as stewards- a service rank. Over the course of the war, other ranks were opened to them and various locations, including Floyd Bennett Field, started to experiment with integration. While the men worked together, it was not a paradise. There was still a subtle segregation within the units (and a less subtle one in the living situations). For example, one gym on a map from 1947 refers to the “colored gym” and is the inspiration for this project. Now, the military ruled in 1943 that recreational facilities could not be segregated that blatantly, with signs like colored or whites only. What was interesting to learn was that while they were allowed to use the other gym- and did- there was still an understanding that this building, then called “West Recreation Building” on maps, was still a “colored gym.”
This was the type of issue that came up in my research. The official records did not offer much information in the way of segregation policy because so much of it became a more subtle, but still present, force as integration was put into practice. I ended up looking at the military and discrimination on a wider scale but I think there is work to be done in the future on the topic. Perhaps with access to more resources another intern could learn more about the position minority soldiers in US Naval Air Station, NY held. Understanding the ways that segregation was not only a direct line in the sand but also an invisible barrier between groups has been an important part of the work I am doing here. This was also the focus of the presentation I put together for my department as part of my internship here. I presented it to the Cultural Resources department two weeks ago and last week I had a meeting with the interpretation crew about it. It was a great chance to meet more of the staff and learn about what they do as well. It shocks me when I realize how soon my time here will be over but I cannot wait to meet all the interns in Denver this week!