Wilson Caldwell Monk

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Wilson Caldwell Monk saw his draft letter as an opportunity, a chance to land a secure job with decent pay. For the 12 months — he expected it to be a one-year commitment — he would serve in the Army, Monk wouldn’t have to worry about a paycheck. It would be a welcome reprieve. During the ”Season,” the three months Atlantic City was open for business, Monk held down as many jobs as he could squeeze into a day. He mopped floors, delivered drugstore orders, sold salt water taffy and waited tables at white-tablecloth restaurants along the famous Boardwalk that would never serve a meal to a black man like himself. The other nine months were a constant scramble to make ends meet. When the United States went to war in December 1941, Monk’s service was extended indefinitely. He would travel to Great Britain, where he would meet people like Jessie Prior, who taught him that discrimination was not a natural state. To read more about Jessie, click here.

Wilson and Mertina Monk used a 50-cent coupon to take this portrait in Atlantic City during the war. Then they got a second one, so they could each have one. “We were so poor we didn't have money to go to a movie,” Mertina said. The Monks were married for 68 years.
Photo: Courtesy of Wilson and Mertina Monk

Wilson Monk poses with a barrage balloon likely at Camp Tyson, Tenn.
Photo: Courtesy of the Monk family  

Wilson Monk gets a peck from Mertina at their home in Silver Spring, Md. When Mertina set eyes on Wilson in 1941, she told herself, "He's a done deal.” They married on Dec. 6, 1944, shortly after he returned from Normandy
Photo: Linda Hervieux

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