African American WWII Seaman Passport

United States Of America – Seaman Passports

for the US Merchant Marines were introduced on February 23, 1942, as a wartime measure. This type of passport was short-lived and was discontinued on August 28, 1945. No fees were collected for such a passport issued to an American seaman who required a passport in connection with his duties aboard an American flag vessel. African American Seaman Passport

*In 1942, against overwhelming odds, Captain Hugh Mulzac became the first African-American merchant marine naval officer to command an integrated crew during World War II. Born March 26, 1886, on Union Island, St. Vincent Island Group, British West Indies, Mulzac entered the Swansea Nautical College in South Wales to prepare for a seaman’s career while in his youth. He became an American citizen in 1918 and continued training at the Shipping Board in New York. He earned his captain’s rating in the merchant marine in 1918, but racial prejudice denied him the right to command a ship. African American Seaman Passport

Later Mulzac was offered the command of a ship with an all-black crew. He refused, declaring that “under no circumstances will I command a Jim Crow vessel.” Twenty-two years passed before Mulzac received an offer to command a naval ship again. During World War II, his demand for an integrated crew was finally met, and he was put in command of the SS Booker T. Washington. African American Seaman Passport

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. When 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, and the struggle worthwhile.

Being prevented for those twenty-four years from doing the work I was trained in 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.” 

Captain Mulzac

was but one of the approximately 24,000 African-Americans (10 % of the Service) in the Merchant Marine during WWII. African-Americans served in every capacity aboard the ships when the army and Navy employed racial restriction and segregation policies. For example, at the beginning of the war, African-Americans could serve only as messmen in the Navy.

William Edward Lew

was a music professor and powerful tenor who performed in the Boston area. He joined the Merchant Marine in 1943 at age 78 and served for one year as a cook. African American Seaman Passport

The U.S. Maritime Service, the official training organization of the U.S. Merchant Marine, also applied a nondiscrimination policy when other services were segregated.

*Source: American Merchant Marine at War,

THE PASSPORT African American Seaman Passport

The following Seaman’s passport was issued to Clarence Frederick Pine (DOB 12/14/02) from East Providence, Rhode Islands (former State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations), on September 29, 1942. The first African American Seaman’s passport I ever saw. But there is another curiosity…

Page six shows a British immigration stamp from 1944, which is already unique as usually, these types of passports rarely have some stamps. But the fascinating stamps are on pages seven and eight. A total of six entry/exit stamps from Bremerhaven/Germany from 1955! I have never seen Seaman passports with border stamps – this is the first one!

African American Seaman Passport

Records show the US Seaman’s passport was discontinued in Aug 1945; how could he still travel in 1955 with the same document? These passports don’t show any expiry date as it is standard for any other type of passport. What a curious case!

African American Seaman Passport


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FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...

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