Segments in this Video

Introduction: No Short Climb (01:18)


Scientists and technicians helped build new technologies. African Americans integrated the defense industries and became involved in all facets of research and development.

Depression Blues (06:06)

Thomas Baldwin states that African Americans experienced economic depression from 1890 until the Great Depression. Walter McAfee, Constance Wright, Baldwin, Jess Jetter, and William Jones discuss their education paths that eventually led to working in defense research and development. Civil Service jobs become integrated.

Making the Grade (06:01)

Jones compares the number of good people to the number of racists he encountered. Harold Tate, William Townes. and Baldwin share their experiences with discrimination and obtaining jobs at the Signal Corps Laboratories. Baldwin joins the Air Force in 1944.

Wanted Women War Workers (08:04)

Constance Wright recalls joining the radio direction finding branch, working on wave guides, and continuing her education. Jones recalls joining the loop course, testing SCR-268 radio position finders, and becoming the liaison with MIT; he begins seeing more Black professionals. McAfee discusses working in the Theoretical Studies Unit.

Onward and Upward (07:49)

Jetter discusses hand-writing modules for radars and teaching new hires. Townes shares a typical problem in the radar receiver group which necessitated the creation of a calibration device for radar sets. He recalls Japanese planes spotted outside Pearl Harbor but the warnings were ignored.

Working at Signal Corps and NACA (04:37)

Wright talks about the working conditions at Signal Corps and the weather station launching balloons. Baldwin discusses training flight personnel and being the first Black technically trained employee at NACA. After the war, the laboratory was renamed NASA.

Missiles and the Moon (07:39)

Jones recalls testing ballistic missiles from the air; rogue frequencies from caused signal jams. McAfee talks about Project Diana; he did not receive proper credit for the invention. Mary Tate discusses her career path, gaining the title of Mathematician, and working on a nuclear testing project.

Moving On (04:37)

Jones discusses traveling for work during the time of segregation and racism in the Joint Chiefs of Staff work environment. Jones recalls how he was accused of allowing the praise of Communism and fired without trial in the McCarthy era.

Post-War Career Paths (08:47)

McAfee and Wright discuss their career paths and the lack of racial acceptance in the post-war era. Townes discusses becoming a spec writer, the impact of the McCarthy era, and how the roles of women were reduced after the war.

Credits: No Short Climb (01:38)

Credits: No Short Climb

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No Short Climb

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During the period immediately following the Great Depression, young African-American men and women graduated from high schools and college across the nation with degrees in the sciences. However, they found themselves unemployed and unemployable. Though large numbers of scientists, technicians, and support staff were widely recruited from prestigious colleges and universities, racial barriers kept these ranks limited to White applicants. As the U.S. geared up for the approaching war in Europe, efforts were made to aggressively recruit and place Blacks in positions in both the military and civilian service corps. Serving as the experimental proving grounds for a host of “state-of-the art” defense weaponry, Fort Monmouth brought on board its first African-American professionals in 1940. These new hires became engineers, project specialists, and technicians and, as the War progressed, women were brought in to replace the men who were transferred overseas. In spite of barriers that hindered acceptance, promotion, and recognition of their accomplishments, African-Americans made major contributions to the success of this facility. No Short Climb combines personal memoir with archival footage, still photography, and graphics, to present a first-hand account of the previously unknown story about the contributions of African-American scientists and technicians during the Second World War.

Length: 58 minutes

Item#: BVL205459

ISBN: 978-1-64867-692-5

Copyright date: ©2007

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

"Celluloid Diplomacy: Framingham State College professor to visit Rwanda and show his documentary", The MetroWest Daily News, page B5, July 13, 2010--"Documentaries tend to be accepted as truthful--there's an expectation that what you're seeing is real."

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