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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  1. thanks very much for your insight into this highly topical issue full equality – and often its absence – for people of all races.

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