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Gertha Sykes Collins Papers

Identifier: Mss. Acc. 2011.487

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

Primarily this is a collection of love letters written between 1942-1944 to Gertha Barbara Jean Sykes residing in St. Louis, Missouri and James NMI Dansby, an African-American soldier in the United States Army. There are also letters from two other Army soldiers, Jack Smith, stationed in the Pacific and Benjamin D. Collins, an aircompany soldier, whom Sykes married in 1949.

The letters begin when Dansby joined the Army and started basic training in Camp Shelby, Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Initially he was a member of Company C, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion (Service), one of the many all-black units activated during the Second World War. In April of 1944, he became a member of 4060th Quartermaster Battalion. Towards the end of 1944, he was stationed to the South West Pacific Theatre and most likely spent the war in the Philippines. He was there until after World War II in Asia had ended and then spent approximately three and a half months in Japan. After his arrival to the United States in January 1946, Dansby travelled to St. Louis and then moved to Detroit, Michigan. He never met Sykes again after he had left St. Louis for basic training and their relationship ended in January of 1947.

There are no letters written during Dansby's time in the Philippines and those mailed from Japan do not contain information about the war. Nevertheless, the collection provides a good insight into a soldier's life, contains numerous examples of military censorship of correspondence, and some reactions to the Jim Crow laws in place at the time.

In addition to letters to Sykes and few letters addressed to Collins, the collection contains a certificate of marriage between Sykes and Collins, postcards issued by the War Department notifying Sykes of Dansby's assignments to new installations, and stamped envelopes accompanying almost every letter.


  • Creation: 1942-1951


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.


0.40 Linear Feet (1 Full Hollinger box.)

Arrangement of Materials:

Arranged chronologically.

Related Materials:

A Guide to World War II Resources in the Special Collections Research Center

Information about related materials is available at

Processing Information:

Accessioned and minimally processed by Benjamin Bromley in July 2011. Further processed and described by Ania Leska in 2012/2013.

Guide to the Gertha Sykes Collins Papers
Ania Leska, Special Collections Volunteer.
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository