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Guide to the Earl Garfield Cunningham World War II scrapbook, photographs, and ephemera, 1941-1950 and undated

Summary

Earl Garfield Cunningham (1911-1983) was an African American U.S. Army Lieutenant who served with the 371st Infantry in Italy from October 1944 to the end of 1945. While in Italy, he participated in the campaigns of North Apennines and Po Valley. collection includes 12 scrapbook pages containing more than 150 amateur corner-mounted photographs taken primarily in Italy, together with postcards of Italian sights; military appointment certificates and news clippings; military records; military awards including the Bronze Star Medal; and additional photographs that collectively document the military career and experiences of African American soldier Earl G. Cunningham. Locations documented in Garfield's photographs include Genova, Pisa, Viareggio, Massa, Pietrasanta, and Savona, Images include city streets, rural landscapes, coastal views, damaged buildings and destroyed tanks, Italian citizens, American soldiers, and partisan cemeteries. Many of the photographs have brief captions. Acquired as part of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.00275
Title
Earl Garfield Cunningham World War II scrapbook, photographs, and ephemera
Date
1941-1950 and undated
Creator
Cunningham, Earl Garfield, 1911-1983
Extent
1.25 Linear Feet, 1 box, 40 Items
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Material in English

Collection Overview

The collection includes awards, service records, scrapbook pages, and photographs that collectively document the military career and experiences of African American U.S. Army Lieutenant Earl G. Cunningham. The Scrapbook series contains more than 150 amateur photographs corner-mounted on 12 loose pages that were formerly part of a large scrapbook. The photographs, chiefly 2x3 inches, capture scenes in Allied-occupied Italy, often with Cunningham or his fellow African American soldiers in the foreground. Subjects include city streets, rural landscapes, coastal views, damaged buildings and destroyed tanks, mounds of rubble, Italian citizens, American soldiers, and partisan cemeteries. Brief, handwritten captions identify colleagues or locations including Pisa, Viareggio, Pietrasanta, Massa, Genoa, and Savona. The first few pages in the scrapbook include certificates of appointment demonstrating Cunningham's rise in the military from 1941-1943, along with photographs taken at Camp Williams near Lehi, Utah before his service in Italy.

The remainder of the collection is divided into the following series: Military Awards, Military Records, and Photographs. Military awards and records include transcripts of service, discharge papers, a copy of Cunningham's marriage certificate from Maryland, and a Bronze Star medal. The loose photographs include his portrait and a series of black-and-white commercial photographic postcards from Genova and other cities in Italy, postmarked 1945, with one containing a message to his wife.

Acquired as part of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.

More Biographical / Historical Info

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], Earl Garfield Cunningham World War II scrapbook, photographs, and ephemera, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Contents of the Collection

1. Military Awards, 1948 and undated

1 box

The series consists of a small box containing a Bronze Star Medal awarded to Cunningham on March 12, 1948, together with four United States Army ribbons.

Medal in box, 1948 and undated
Box 1

2. Military Records, 1941-1950 and undated

1 folder

The series includes certificates of service, graduation program from Officer Candidate School, certificate of honorable discharge, transcript of military record, separation qualification record, military record and report of separation, certificate of appointment to First Lieutenant, Bronze Star Medal certificate, letter of gratitude from the White House, photocopies of selected military records and his marriage certificate (Maryland), and two letters regarding Cunningham's residence at the time of registration for Selective Service.

Records, 1941-1950 and undated
Box 1

3. Photographs and Postcards, 1945 and undated

1 folder

The series consists of two military portraits of Cunningham and seven photographic postcards of Genoa addressed to Mrs. Earl G. Cunningham, 2330 7th Ave. Apt. 6, New York 30 N.Y. All postcards bear a postmark of June 1945, and one includes commentary to his wife.

Military portraits and photographic postcards, 1945 and undated
Box 1

4. Scrapbook Pages, 1941-1945 and undated

1 folder

The series contains more than 150 amateur photographs corner-mounted on 12 large loose pages formerly part of a scrapbook. The photographs, chiefly 2x3 inches, capture scenes in Italy, often with Cunningham or his fellow African American soldiers in the foreground. Subjects include city streets, rural landscapes, coastal views, damaged buildings and destroyed tanks, Italian citizens, American soldiers, and partisan cemeteries. Brief, handwritten captions identify colleagues or locations including Pisa, Viareggio, Pietrasanta, Massa, Genoa, and Savona. The first few pages of the scrapbook include appointment certificates demonstrating Cunningham's rise in the military, along with photographs taken at Camp Williams near Lehi, Utah. One page features two poems, one dedicated to his wife, and four news clippings announcing the African American division's return home.

Folder with pages, 1941-1945 and undated
Box 1
 

Historical Note

Earl Garfield Cunningham, an African American born on June 3, 1911, in Egypt, Mississippi, was a resident of New York City when drafted into the United States Army in 1941. After rising through the ranks to First Sergeant, he attended Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant on November 21, 1942. From October 1944 to the end of 1945, he served in Italy with the 371st Infantry and participated in the campaigns of North Apennines and Po Valley. He was commissioned as First Lieutenant before his honorable discharge from the Army in 1946.

Related Material

The Rubenstein Library at Duke University holds a number of photograph albums created by African American soldiers. To find their collection guides, search the Rubenstein collection guides site using the string "African American soldiers."


Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.

Provenance

The Earl Garfield Cunningham World War II scrapbook, photographs, and ephemer were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2009.

Processing Information

Processed by Danielle Moore, September 2010

Encoded by Danielle Moore, October 2010

Accession 2009-0283 is described in this finding aid.