Scope and Contents
Approximately 25 letters, 1918-1919, predominately from Bernice Edward Payne, of Roaring Springs, Texas, to his parents, Macon L. and Mattie S. Payne, and sister, Eunice Payne. Bernice Payne, a white man, served in the US Army during World War I. He began his initial training at Camp Travis, Texas as a private in the Quartermaster Corps. After successfully passing his examinations, Payne began to oversee the 322nd Labor Battalion Quartermaster Corps, an all-African American battalion. He was soon promoted to sergeant and was transferred along with the 322nd Labor Battalion to Camp Hill in Newport News, Virginia.
Letters addressed to his family reveal Payne’s appreciation for his position and gratitude for not having to serve in an infantry battalion. Although responsible for a group of all-African American soldiers, Payne writes in his letters that he mostly interacts with his fellow white officers and sergeants. This segregation, on the basis of race and rank, is highlighted in the separate barracks and mess halls reserved solely for Payne and the other white soldiers. Letters with commentary of note from Payne on African American soldiers are identified in the Scope and Contents field corresponding to the individual folder in which the letter is housed.
Following his time at Camp Hill, Payne is transferred to Termes, Ardennes, France. Letters from January 1919 onward describe his experiences in Europe, but the collection primarily consists of accounts of his training in Texas and Virginia. Occasionally, letters are supplemented by writing from someone else, perhaps his mother or sister, drafting replies to him or forwarding his letters to other relatives. Also included in this collection is an undated telegram, presumably from Europe, with neither a sender nor recipient name.
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