Singer Marian Anderson
Two men fabricating the 2nd deck
of the "Booker T. Washington," at the California Shipbuilding Corp. yards
World-renowned singer Marian Anderson (left) christened the SS Booker T. Washington in 1942. Captain Hugh Mulzac (far left) served as master of the ship for four years. He was the first Black merchant marine naval officer to command an integrated crew in World War II.
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Mulzac had been offered the command of a ship 22 years before, but with an all-black crew. He refused, saying that "under no circumstances will I command a Jim Crow vessel." His demand for an integrated crew was finally met when he accepted command of the Booker T. Washington.
With its crew of eighteen nationalities, the Booker T. Washington made twenty-two round-trip voyages in five years and carried 18,000 troops to Europe and the Pacific.
On the day his ship was launched, Mulzac recalled, "Everything I ever was, stood for, fought for, dreamed of, came into focus that day...
The concrete evidence of the achievement gives one's strivings legitimacy, proves that the ambitions were valid, the struggle worthwhile. Being prevented for those twenty-four years from doing the work for which I was trained had robbed life of its most essential meaning. Now at last I could use my training and capabilities fully. It was like being born anew."