Back Rupert Trimmingham, “Democracy?”

Rupert Trimmingham (1899–1985), with others
From Reporting World War II: American Journalism 1944–1946

“Easter Eggs for Hitler.” Technical Sergeant William E. Thomas and Private First Class Joseph Jackson, March 10, 1945, during the Battle of Remagen. (National Archives)

Born in Trinidad and arriving in the U.S. in 1925, Rupert Trimmingham was living in Newark, New Jersey, when he enlisted in the Army Corps of Engineers as an electrician in 1942. He spent four years in the military, and in April 1944 he wrote a letter to the Army magazine YANK that made him briefly famous. He became a U.S. citizen in 1950.

YANK was known—some might suggest it was somewhat notorious—for its cheeky content and its sly mockery of Army life and of military authority. Still, it almost certainly came as a surprise when the editors had the “courage to print” Corporal Trimmingham’s letter describing his experience as a black soldier in an American railroad station under “Old Man Jim Crow rules.” Both he and the editors were amazed by the response: hundreds of letters, virtually all of them denouncing Trimmingham’s treatment and supporting the magazine’s decision to publish the letter.

We present the letter, which was published under the title “Democracy?,” along with the responses published in YANK, as our Story of the Week selection.

Read “Democracy?” by Rupert Trimmingham

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