Poet, playwright, and professor Owen Dodson was stationed at Camp Robert Smalls during World War II. The segregated Camp housed black soldiers preparing to take on their duties in the United States Navy. Dodson attributes the forced segregation with an opportunity for "the brilliance of the race" to shine and he wrote and directed plays while there which subversively highlight the struggle for freedom and equality of African Americans. He also wrote his powerful poem, "Black Mother Praying" in reaction to the military's restriction on the black men during the Detroit riots. They were unable to listen to the radio, read black-owned papers, or leave the Camp and were distraught over the lack of knowing the safety or well-being of their family and friends during this time. His poetry and plays and reflections on his time at Camp Robert Smalls provide insight into black struggle, strength, and agency.
Please join Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Amherst College Riley Caldwell-O'Keefe as she shares her archival research and reflections on Owen Dodson's work.