Friday, July 27, 2012
NC Civil Defense and Black History Month - Statesville, NC Test Exercise, 23 October 1951
A question I receive with some frequency is "what about African Americans and civil defense?" Bluntly stated, none of the documents I have studied overtly give mention to any degree of "separate but equal" or segregation in fallout shelters, medical care, or emergency relief. This being said, African Americans are never present, at least in regards to the civil defense leadership, until the 1970s. Nevertheless, while flipping through some of the disintegrating scrapbooks of the NCCD, I found mention of civil defense exercise from 23 October 1951 where there is photographic proof of African American participation with civil defense.
At approximately 7:30PM, five P-51 Mustangs from Fort Bragg, NC flew over Statesville, NC and at 7:35PM "dropped" an atomic bomb over the Oakland Heights neighborhood in the Northwest section of the city. Civil defense personnel responded immediately to this catastrophe, organizing communication, evacuation, rescue squads, medical personnel, mass feeding, and shelter for the thousands of affected persons.
The only mention of this test exercise is listed in the NC Council of Civil Defense "Summary of Operations, July 1950 - September 1950" report. As reported:
An all-out, full-scale test exercise held several months later [note, there was a preliminary test held in Statesville over the summer] for the benefit of the regional and state directors and civil defense leaders from all towns and counties in the state. All civil defense personnel and general public participated.
The photos below are from the test exercise. Unfortunately I have no information on who is pictured or what their role was in the exercise. These photos constitute the ONLY photographs of African American participation in NC Civil Defense that I have uncovered thus far. Logic dictates that there are more photos out there. Hopefully my research will uncover them.