70 years ago: jazz singer Lena Horne christens liberty ship at Kaiser Shipyard

posted on September 9, 2013


by Ginny McPartland, Heritage writer

African-American women and men honored for their work on liberty ships at Richmond yards during World War II

On May 7, 1943, just over seven decades ago, beloved singer and actress Lena Horne visited Richmond, Calif., to break the champagne over the bow of the SS George Washington Carver, the first Richmond-built ship to be named after an African-American.

Miss Horne, sponsor of the ship, was joined by matron of honor Beatrice Turner in the launching ceremony. Turner was the first African-American woman to be hired as a welder in the Kaiser Shipyards.

The Liberty Ship, named after the famous black scientist George Washington Carver, was constructed by the workforce at the Richmond Shipyard No. 1, which included many African-Americans.

Bonaparte Louis, Jr., (at right) one of the best chippers in the yard, was among the skilled workers who rushed the Carver to completion. The keel was first laid for the ship on April 12, 1943 and launched less than a month later.

Odie Mae Embry, pictured below right at work on the SS Carver,was among the 1,000 black women who made up the 7,000 workers of African ancestry in the Richmond shipyards.

8d18719rGeorge Washington Carver, scientist, botanist, educator, and inventor, had died only four months before the launch. Lena Horne, singer, actress, civil rights activist and dancer, died on May 9, 2010, at the age of 92.

Photos by E. F. Joseph, Office of War Information.




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