Newton, Metro

Library Exhibit Highlights Black Newtonians Who Fought in World War II

The Black Newtonians in World War II exhibit at the Newton Free Library highlights the courage of local Black servicemen in the global conflict. 

The exhibit reminds visitors of the discrimination against Black people in both the military and society at large in the 1940s. Historic Newton, a partnership between the City of Newton and the Newton Historical Society, put on the exhibit.

Located in the library’s lobby, the exhibit relays the story of three local men who served in the European theater of the conflict—Henry Evans, Alfred Haywood Jr., and Leroy “Roy” Mack.

Karen Haywood, a Historic Newton board member and local resident related to two of the soldiers featured in the exhibit, said that the men who fought faced prejudice and segregation upon returning from combat. 

“When they were released from the service, … they had to fight another battle at home as civilians,” Haywood said. “And that was the same topic—prejudice, being disrespected, not being able to get jobs.”

 A soldier’s cap and canteen from Historic Newton’s collection are also on display. The items are similar to those the soldiers would have been equipped with. 

In addition to the profiles on the soldiers, the exhibit also details a 1945 strike by Black Women’s Army Core, a female badallion that protested discriminatory behavior of white army leadership at Fort Devens, just a 45 minute drive west from Newton.

The exhibit acts as a prelude to a Feb. 10 lecture. Mathew Delmont, a history professor at Dartmouth, will examine the experience of Black people in World War II, both on the frontlines and upon returning home. The lecture is titled “Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad.” 

People can register for the Zoom lecture, co-sponsored by Newton Free Library and Historic Newton, through the library’s website

The lecture and exhibit play into Historic Newton’s larger Black History project, according to Clara Silverstein, the organization’s community engagement manager.

“Our mission is to interpret Black history along a continuum of 400 years,” Silverstein said. “So it’s not just slavery and civil rights. There are all kinds of other aspects that we hope to be researching and talking about—now and in the coming years.”

Featured Image by Keara Hanlon / Heights Senior Staff

February 10, 2022