Carter, Allene G.
CARTER, Allene G.
PERSONAL: Born in Chicago, IL; daughter of Jesse Vaughan (a union organizer and activist); married Edward A. Carter III, 1973; children: Santalia, Corey. Education: Graduate of El Camino College.
ADDRESSES: Home—CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Amistad, HarperCollins, 10 East 53rd St., 7th Fl., New York, NY 10022.
CAREER: Emergency police dispatcher, 1978—; Local 9400, Communications Workers of America, steward.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Research for a book about her father's role in the Chicago labor movement of the 1920s and 1930s.
SIDELIGHTS: Allene G. Carter is the daughter of a labor leader who fought for black workers in Chicago, Illinois. She learned activism from him and was a participant of the 1959 march on Washington for the desegregation of schools. As an adult, Carter became a steward in her local union and a 911 dispatcher in her community.
Carter married Edward, the eldest son of Sergeant Eddie Carter, a black soldier who didn't receive his due until long after his death. Carter knew the father-in-law she had never met had been a war hero, but it wasn't until after he was presented with a posthumous Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton in 1997 that she set out to discover the facts surrounding his service, and to understand why he had been deprived of what was rightfully his—acknowledgment of his outstanding service to his country. It took Carter more than three years of research, and her tribute to Eddie, Honoring Sergeant Carter: Redeeming a Black World War II Hero's Legacy, finally raised him to a place in history he so richly deserves. In order to reach her goal, she had to gain access to federal files through the Freedom of Information Act and sort through the hidden records of military intelligence and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to understand to what extent her father-in-law had been the victim of bigotry and McCarthyism. Booklist reviewer Vernon Ford wrote that Carter's account is "packed with jewels of America's diverse racial and cultural history too often hidden from view."
Eddie Carter was born the son of missionaries (a black father and Anglo-Indian mother) who served in China, and as a teenager, he fought with the Chinese Nationalist Army until his father had him kicked out by revealing that he was not yet eighteen years old. He opposed fascism in the Spanish Civil War with a group of American volunteers that formed the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, some of whose members were members of the Communist Party. In 1940, Eddie came to the United States and married, and when Pearl Harbor was bombed, he enlisted in the army.
Eddie was sent to Europe, but black soldiers were segregated and kept unarmed and out of the actual fighting. It was only when the army experienced a shortage of white combat soldiers that they asked for volunteers from the black ranks. Eddie volunteered for an all-black infantry unit, but in doing so, he lost his sergeant's stripes, taken from him so that he would be unable to command white troops. After the Battle of the Bulge, while attached to the 12th Armored Division under General George Patton, Eddie entered combat in Speyer, Germany. During an encounter, filled with shrapnel and five bullets, he destroyed enemy machine gun and mortar positions, killing six men and capturing two others. He used the two as human shields to return to his company, where they gave up information that enabled a United States advance.
Eddie was awarded the second-highest honor for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross. He deserved the Medal of Honor, but none of the 1.2 million blacks who served were awarded the top honor. It wasn't until 1992, under pressure from veterans' groups, that the army began to investigate these inequities. What Carter discovered was that General Mark Clark found Eddie suspect because of his previous service in the Spanish Civil War and because Eddie openly complained that although black servicemen had liberated Europe, they themselves were not free at home. Eddie was also suspect because he knew the Mandarin Chinese, Hindustani, and German languages. Army officials had compiled a secret dossier on Eddie into which they filed all of their false suspicions.
After the war, Eddie worked in a tire factory in Los Angeles. When he attempted to rejoin the army in 1949, aided by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), he was denied, and he was also removed from the California National Guard honor rolls. He died of cancer, brokenhearted, in 1963, at the age of forty-seven.
U.S. News & World Report chronicled Carter's struggle to uncover the true facts. The U.S. Army officially apologized to Eddie's widow, Mildred, and the family, in 1999 and presented them with a corrected record of his service along with three other medals for which he qualified but never received. They are the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Army of Occupation Medal, and the American Campaign Medal. Also in 1999, President Clinton wrote a letter to Mildred, in which he said, "Had I known when I presented this Medal of Honor two years ago, I would have personally apologized to you and your family."
On February 17, 2000, the California Military Museum in Sacramento opened an exhibit in Eddie Carter's honor, and on June 12, 2001, a ship of the U.S. Navy was named for him. His daughter-in-law broke the ceremonial bottle of champagne over the ship's bow.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote that Carter's "dogged determination to uncover the truth and correct the record is a proud testament to her background as a union activist," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor felt that the authors "do a commendable job of showing just how righteous Carter's cause was, bringing deserved honor to their subject."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, January 1, 2003, Vernon Ford, review of Honoring Sergeant Carter: Redeeming a Black World War II Hero's Legacy, p. 838.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2002, review of Honoring Sergeant Carter, p. 1668.
Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1999, "Fifty Years Later, War Hero's Record Is Finally Cleared." Publishers Weekly, December 9, 2002, review of Honoring Sergeant Carter, p. 73.
Sacramento Bee, February 17, 2000, Wayne Wilson, "Museum Exhibit Gonors WWII Hero."
Honoring Sergeant Carter Web site,http://www.honoringsergeantcarter.com/ (September 12, 2003).
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online,http://www.jsonline.com/ November 10, 1999, "Army Apologizes for Kicking Out WWII Hero."*