Sotero Photograph Collection

The Seattle Public Library has a number of interesting visual collections. One example is the Sotero photograph collection, which offers a window into the world of African Americans in uniform during the World War II era. Marjorie Sotero collected these photographs during her time as a director of the African American Servicemen’s Clubs at Seattle’s Fort Lawton and Camp George Jordan.

Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 80-G-23326
"Pin-up girls at NAS Seattle, Spring Formal Dance" Courtesy National Archives, photo no. 80-G-23326. African Americans During World War II # 247

Marjorie described how these local service clubs were used in a 1985 interview: “this was their home away from home, and this was like their living room where they could come after their day’s work was done and sit down and do the things a man liked to do, sit and smoke, and write [a] letter, and listen to music. And maybe in the evening there would be some kind of entertainment that the directors of the club would plan.”

Many of the images in the collection capture military personnel busy enjoying their time off: a group takes a break from bobbing for apples to smile for the camera, fishermen in uniform line up to display their catch of the day, a bride descends a staircase and a group of pie eating contestants smile through whipping cream beards. One intriguing image entitled “They said it couldn’t be done” documents the first integrated dance at the service club. Another shows an American Red Cross worker stooped alongside a serviceman in a stretcher preparing to be airlifted from Japan. The caption reads “This is how some come back.”

Together, these images help to tell the story of Seattle’s African American servicemen during, and just following, World War II. A couple of these images can be found in the local history book, Fort Lawton by Jack W. Jaunal. For more about Camp George Jordan, scroll backward in time with our Seattle Times Historical database to peruse the November 29, 1970 (p. 159) article; ‘Camp Jordan—a ‘nonglory’ post.”

Pictures from the Sotero collection are on display at the Douglass-Truth branch from June 4 – 30. If you miss the exhibit, copies of these photographs are part of the African American Reference collection at the Douglass-Truth branch and they are also available at the Central Library in the Seattle Room.

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