Program Will Explore the Role of African-American Women in WWII

The People’s University, WWII at the Ohio County Public Library, will present a special program on the role of African-American women in the war at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, in the library’s auditorium.

The class will be led by Gregory Cooke, an adjunct assistant professor in the department of English and philosophy at Drexel University in Philadelphia. He has produced and directed two documentary films about the experiences of African-Americans in World War II, “Choc’late Soldiers from the USA” and “Invisible Warriors.”


The program will go beyond the story of African-American soldiers, who saw WWII as a two-front battle. Drawing the connection between fascism abroad and hate at home, pre-Civil Rights activists declared the necessity of “double victory.” On the home front, African-American “Rosie the Riveters” fled lives as domestics and sharecroppers to empower themselves, working in war production and U.S. government offices while fighting both racism and sexism.

“Simply put,” said Cooke about this program, “the African-American experience in WWII was largely similar to the experiences of others, except that race exacerbated those experiences. So, Black Rosies were patriotic, worked nontraditional jobs and had male family members leave home. But their ‘blackness’ changed and influenced all of these dynamics and many more. Thus, the Double-V campaign. African-American Rosies’ stories are unique because of race; I think that I can significantly add to the discussion.”

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People’s University, WWII is a supporting program for the “We Can Do It! WWII” traveling exhibit on loan from the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh. The exhibit is open to the public during regular library hours until July 24 at the Ohio County Public Library. The 500-square-foot exhibit explores Western Pennsylvania’s impact in WWII and is supplemented with Wheeling-related WWII-era artifacts, both from the collections of the Ohio County Public Library, and other local organizations and individuals. See the calendar on the library’s website at for details.

In keeping with the mission of public libraries as sanctuaries of free learning for all people, the Ohio County Public Library created The People’s University, a free program for adults who wish to continue their education in the liberal arts. The People’s University features courses — taught by experts in each subject — that enable patrons to pursue their goal of lifelong learning in classic subjects such as history, music appreciation, philosophy and literature. Patrons may attend as many classes as they wish. There are no tests of other requirements and all programs are free and open to the public.