Charity Earley pioneered Black women in the mililtary
Charity Adams Earley
*This date celebrates the birth of Charity Edna Adams Earley in 1918. An African American soldier and officer from Columbia, South Carolina, she was the oldest of four children of a minister and a teacher.
Adams grew up in a family where reading was as natural as breathing. The house was always filled with books of all kinds. Her father was a scholar who was fluent in Greek and Hebrew. Adams graduated as valedictorian of Booker T. Washington High School high school, selected Wilberforce University in Ohio, and majored in math and physics. After graduation, Adams returned to Columbia and taught for four years while attending graduate school at Ohio State University.
In 1942 she joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which later became the Women’s Army Corps. In 1944, the Army gave Adams an overseas assignment, the first contingent of Black WACs for this degree of duty. With another officer, she traveled to Scotland to meet her troops, which became part of the postal directory service. Maintaining morale was an important part of her job and, for African-American women in Europe in 1945, beauty parlors were unavailable. With the help of other officers, Adams managed to requisition appropriate supplies for the women and a place for them to have their hair done. Later that year she assumed command of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion.
They were responsible for delivering mail to approximately seven million American troops stationed in Europe. Wartime security required that letters sent home be read and censored, a task usually assigned to the company officers. The women began to socialize with the citizens of Birmingham, most of whom had had little or no previous contact with Blacks. As the war began to wind down, old problems arose once again. Many men were coming through the area, and they were not accustomed to dealing with female soldiers. Many of the men resented the presence of women in the military and especially resented the presence of African-American women. Adams had to look out for her troops and try to keep things on an even keel. With the end of the war, she decided it was time to leave the service, having been promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Her first civilian jobs were in Ohio, where she worked for the Veterans Administration and Miller Music Academy, before moving to Nashville to take a position at Tennessee A & I. In 1949, she married Stanley A. Earley, Jr. and moved with him to Switzerland but the family eventually settled in Dayton, Ohio. In addition to raising a son and a daughter, Earley has devoted much of her life to community service. She has served the United Way, the Black Leadership Development Program, the Board of Directors of Dayton Power and Light, the Dayton Metro Housing Authority, Dayton Opera Company, the board of governors of the American Red Cross, and the board of trustees of Sinclair Community College. She was a volunteer with the United Negro College Fund, the Urban League, and the YWCA.
In 1989, she published a book, One Woman’s Army. Her book was reprinted in 1996. In 1991, Dayton Power and Light Company established a scholarship in her name at Wilberforce University to honor her for twelve years of service on the board. That same year she was inducted into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame. In 1993, she was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. In 1995, Earley introduced President Clinton at a Salute to African-Americans in World War II, in Washington, D.C. American society has changed in many ways since the days when Charity Earley and over one million other African-Americans served their country during the Second World War.
Fifty years after President Truman signed an executive order desegregating the military in 1948; Defense Secretary William Cohen led her onto the stage at Norfolk State University. There he gave commissions to 31 graduates of a historically black college that has produced many African-American military officers. Charity died in January 2002.
Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
Today in American History