William & Mary | Earl Gregg Swem Library Special Collections Database


Gertha Sykes Collins Papers, 1942-1951

Gertha Sykes Collins Papers, 1942-1951
Mss. Acc. 2011.487
0.4 Cubic Feet
Scope and Contents

This is primarily a collection of love letters written in the period 1942-1944 by James NMI Dansby, an African-American in the United States Army, to Gertha Barbara Jean Sykes, residing in St. Louis, Missouri. There are also letters from two other Army soldiers, Jack Smith, stationed in the Pacific and Benjamin D. Collins, another soldier, whom Sykes married in 1949.

The letters begin when Dansby joined the Army and started basic training in Camp Shelby, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Initially he was a member of Company C, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion (Service), one of the many all-black units activated during the Second World War. In April of 1944, he became a member of 4060th Quartermaster Battalion. Towards the end of 1944, he was stationed to the South West Pacific Theatre and most likely spent the war in the Philippines. He was there until after World War II in Asia had ended and then spent approximately three and a half months in Japan. After his arrival to the United States in January 1946, Dansby travelled to St. Louis and then moved to Detroit, Michigan. He never met Sykes again after he had left St. Louis for basic training. Their relationship ended in January of 1947.

There are no letters written during Dansby's time in the Philippines and those mailed from Japan do not contain information about the war. Nevertheless, the collection provides a good insight into a black soldier's life during World War II, contains numerous examples of military censorship of correspondence, and some reactions to the Jim Crow laws in place at the time.

In addition to letters to Sykes and few letters addressed to Collins, the collection contains a certificate of marriage between Sykes and Collins, postcards issued by the War Department notifying Sykes of Dansby's assignments to new installations, and stamped envelopes accompanying almost every letter.

Arranged chronologically.
Dansby, James
Collins, Benjamin D.
Collins, Gertha Sykes
African Americans--History--20th century
Camp Shelby (Miss.)
Censorship--United States--History--20th century
Courtship--United States--History--20th century
Fort Mason (Calif.)--History
Segregation--United States--1940-1950
Soldiers--Training of--United States--History--20th century
Soldiers--United States--Correspondence
Soldiers--United States--Social life and customs--20th century
United Service Organizations (U.S.)
United States. Army--African American troops--History--20th century
World War, 1939-1945--Pacific Area
World War, 1939-1945--United States
Letters (correspondence)
Love letters

Detailed Description

Full Finding Aid/Box List

Administrative Information

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.
Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.
Acquisition Note
 Source: Purchase..
Related Materials
A Guide to World War II Resources in the Special Collections Research Center
For more information please see http://guides.swem.wm.edu/WorldWarII.
Preferred Citation
Gertha Sykes Collins Papers, Special Collections Resarch Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
Collection Material Type:
Printer-friendly Printer-friendly | Email Us Email Us