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Remembering Charity Adams Earley, The First African American Woman Officer Of The Women’s Auxiliary Corps

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Lieutenant Colonel Charity Edna Adams Earley was the Women’s Auxiliary Corps’s first African American female officer. During World War II, she was the commanding officer of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, making her the highest-ranking Black female officer in the Army. Adams was born on December 5, 1918, in Kittrell, North Carolina, but grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. Eugene, her father, was an Episcopal Minister, and Charity, her mother, was a schoolteacher.

Adams was an intellectually gifted child who began school in the second grade. She graduated from Booker T. Washington High School as valedictorian in 1934 and was accepted to Wilberforce University in Ohio. Adams studied Mathematics, Physics, and Latin, with a minor in History. She joined the NAACP, the Women’s Self-Government Organization, and the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Adams received her BA in Arts in 1938 and returned to Columbia to teach math and science at a nearby junior high school.

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Black women in WAACs, 1942 (U.S. Archives)

 

Adams was encouraged to apply for a position in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in June 1942, and she did so. Adams was on her way to Ohio State University for summer classes when the bus was stopped and she received orders to report to duty. In July, Adams, one of 39 candidates accepted into the first officer training class for Black women, arrived at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, the facility where the first Black men in World War I received officer training. She was commissioned on August 29, 1942, and remained to assist in the training of other Black women officers.

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In September 1943 she was promoted to the rank of Major, making her the highest-ranking black female officer at the facility.

Adams was chosen to command the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the first and only battalion of black Women’s Army Corps to serve overseas, in 1944. Adams was in charge of 850 people who were assigned to sort and deliver mail to over 7 million troops stationed throughout the European Theater. He was based in Birmingham, England. Adams’ unit was given six months to complete the task, but due to a strict shift schedule, the unit finished it in three months. Adams was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel by the end of the war in 1945, making her the highest-ranking black woman in the military at the time of her retirement.

 

Major Charity E. Adams Inspects First Contingent of Black Women in the Women’s Army Corps in England (public domain)

 

Adams received her MA in Psychology from Ohio State University in 1946 and later worked for the Pentagon for a short time. She later worked for the Ohio Veterans Administration before moving to Tennessee to work as the Director of Student Personnel at Tennessee A&I College before moving to Georgia to teach at Georgia State College.

In 1949, Adams married Stanley A. Earley Jr., and the couple moved to Switzerland while he finished medical school. In 1952, the couple returned to the United States and settled in Dayton, Ohio. In 1991, she received honorary doctorates from Wilberforce University and the University of Dayton. Charity Adams Earley died on January 13, 2002, at the age of 83, in Dayton, Ohio. Her two children, Stanley III and Judith, survive her.

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Written by How Africa News

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