July 12, 2023

“True Sons of Freedom:” Free Library Exhibit Provides Snapshot of Virginia’s African American WWI Servicemen

Exhibit on display at Central Library now through Aug. 31.
True Sons of Freedom exhibit at Library

African Americans from all parts of Virginia, most of them farmers or laborers, served in the army and navy during World War I. Attracted by targeted recruitment efforts, they found opportunities to travel, work, and in many cases, face cameras for the first time, all outside the restrictions of the Jim Crow South.

Close-up photo of exhibit photo

“True Sons of Freedom,” featuring two dozen enlarged photographs on display at the Virginia Beach Central Library now through August, gives us a glimpse into the lives of these Virginians who fought overseas to defend freedoms they were denied at home. In the words of one veteran from Richmond, “It was my duty to defend the standards of My country wher[e] my Freedom is sought.”

Reproduced from pocket-size portraits originally made outdoors or in makeshift studios, the photos became mementos for families and sweethearts of the servicemen. The men pose in uniform, some in casual stances, others more formal with military kits.

Reflecting their pride and determination, the veterans submitted their photos along with their responses to Virginia War History Commission questionnaires. The questions and answers provide invaluable historical and genealogical information about the soldiers, their families, and their service records.

Close up shot of photos from exhibit.

“True Sons of Freedom” is a traveling exhibit from the Library of Virginia. Stop by any time during Central Library’s operating hours, now through Aug. 31, 2023, to learn about these great men.

If you enjoy local history and genealogy, be sure to check out Virginia Beach Public Library’s abundant resources, including the Edgar T. Brown Local History Archives.

You can also find a variety of art and exhibits at most VBPL branches, including “All Bent Up,” mixed media art of Brandon Thompson at the Oceanfront Library on display through July, and the Tidewater Quilters Guild exhibit of nearly 100 quilts at the Joint-Use Library through Aug. 16, 2023.

Contact Information

Virginia Beach Public Library

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