ECU English professor Alex Albright was interviewed this month on the WUNC N.C. Public Radio program, “The State of Things,” about his recent book titled “The Forgotten First: B-1 and the Integration of the Modern Navy.” (Hear the interview at http://wunc.org/post/integrating-navy-through-music.)
The book details the history of a band of integration pioneers from N.C. A&T University, who were the first African Americans to serve in the modern U.S. Navy at a rank higher than messman’s.
Albright chronicles the history of The B-1 Band, founded in 1942 as the first of more than 100 black WWII Navy bands. Formed from NC A&T students and graduates, the group trained at Norfolk and served at the Navy’s pre-flight school in Chapel Hill and at Pearl Harbor, where they were stationed at the largest posting of African American servicemen in the world.
Previous histories have credited B-1’s historic accomplishment to a different group of sailors who trained at the Great Lakes bases in Chicago. Albright used documents found at the Navy’s national archives at College Park, Md. to support the claim he had heard from the surviving members of B-1 for years.
“Until I found those documents, all we ever had was an oral history,” said Albright. “And the documents I found had never been cataloged.”
“The Forgotten First,” released Oct. 24, has received praise from poet and novelist Fred Chappell, Navy Senior Chief Musician Michael Bayes and retired Navy Masterchief Musician Marshall B. Hawkins. The 196-page book includes 70 photos and illustrations, extensive notes and a bibliography. B-1’s archives, housed in Special Collections at ECU, was the source for many of the book’s images.
Copies are available at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro; UBE in Greenville; Woodside Antiques in Farmville; and at Fountain General Store in Fountain. Copies are also available on Amazon and from R.A. Fountain’s e.store, www.rafountain.com/store. Kindle, Nook, and Lulu editions are forthcoming.
Design for the book was done by former ECU art professor Eva Roberts, award-winning art director of the North Carolina Literary Review from 1991-96. It was printed in Greenville by Morgan Printing.
A review of the book by O Henry magazine, along with an excerpt, is available at http://www.ohenrymag.com/?page_id=25
Albright will participate in a book signing at UBE in Greenville Dec. 21 with B-1 veteran Huey Lawrence.
For additional information, contact Albright at 252-749-7974. For a calendar of events related to the book, visit www.rafountain.com/navy.