The History of InfoAge Science & History Museums

Oral Histories - No Short Climb a documentary By Robert Johnson Jr.

Based upon:
An Oral History of African-Americans
and the Development of Radar
Defense Technology
at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey

Copyright and
Edited by Professor Robert Johnson Jr.
used with permission

During the great civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the great dilemma the victims of slavery faced.  As slaves for 244 years, then segregated and denied opportunity over the next 100 years, unrealistic expectations were placed upon these men and women as segregation was being put to death by the effective tactics of ‘non-violence’. Certain groups demanded these persons be as resourceful and productive as the individuals who never knew such repression and discrimination.

Thanks to the work of Professor Robert Johnson Jr., who conducted a series of oral histories in the early 1990s, the resourcefulness, productivity, and patriotism of men and women of African American heritage at Camp Evans was brought forth.  Given (or more accurately – not denied) the opportunity to achieve and contribute these persons did.  During WWII African Americans demonstrated the spirit and personal heroism that would again be drawn upon in the 1960s to save America from the grip of racial injustice.  African Americans associated with Camp Evans became Ph. Ds, accomplished engineers, decorated officers, and respected managers. For example, Dr. Walter McAfee would help open the space age, but sadly his part would not be mentioned until later.

Author Thomas Daniels would write in 1988, “The original 20 Black engineers and physicists who arrived at Fort Monmouth in the early 1940s set a blazing trail of technical accomplishments for the U.S. Army and set the pace for those Blacks who followed.”  He observed,  “Current books on Black inventors, scientists or engineers fail to mention the many  inventions, developments and advancements made in radar, avionics, communication, satellites, electronic warfare, infrared, solid-state, computer science, meteorology and electronic components by both civilians and military, particularly at Fort Monmouth.”   It is our hope the web page will contribute to changing this.

Purchase the DVD, learn from the oral histories, that the video is based upon and learn the reality of the times.  In spite of personal insult and injustice, these persons kept control of the one thing we all have at our control, our reaction. One’s reaction to injustice is similar to the decision to practice racism, it is a personal choice. In spite of helping to win WWII, winning opportunity at home would be “No Short Climb” over the next twenty years.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Robert Johnson Jr., producer and director of “No Short Climb,” a documentary about black scientists who helped the U.S. and allies win World War II

Many thanks to Professor Johnson for conducting these interviews and bringing this important story forth in text and a DVD documentary.  Over a period of ten years Professor Johnson has dedicated personal time and his resources to this excellent work.  He has preserved inspiring stories for the future.

The oral histories were funded in part by the New Jersey Historical Commission

Other pages relating to African-American History at Camp Evans and Fort Monmouth:

February 26, 1982  Black Leaders – Many contributed to communications achievements., by Wilhemina Mitchell, Monmouth Message, Page 5
January 1988, High Level Achievers – Black Scientific and Engineering Contributors to the U.S. Army at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, by Thomas E. Daniels, Journal of the NTA, Page 14-19
Feburary 21, 1995  “Walter McAfee, helped boost U.S. into space“., Asbury Park Press
July 31, 1997   Fort Monmouth building dedicated in honor of the late Dr. Walter McAfee.  by Janine Bilotti, The Coast Star
August 14, 2000  Little Known Black History Facts, by Dr. Henry Louis Gates, published by McDonald’s Corporation.  A booklet sold by McDonald’s Restaurants from August 14, 2000 to September 14, 2000.  Dr. MacAfee of Project Diana is features on page 12.
September 2, 2000  Late South Belmar resident included in Little Known Black History Facts.  The Coast Star, by Andrea Agardy, Pg.8
March 4, 2002  Radar facility provided outlet for black excellence. By Fred Carl, Guest writer, Asbury Park Press, Page B1 and B2
February 24, 2004  Documentary highlights black WWII scientists By Jeff Adair / News Staff Writer, MetroWest Daily News
March 6, 2007 “No Short Climb” a documentary is released
 on DVD  and available at the InfoAge Gift Shop

Page created March 20, 2001

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