Anna B. Collins from Richmond, KY, was living in Dayton, OH, when she enlisted in the Army. Her enlistment took place in Cincinnati, OH, according to her enlistment record in Ancestry and an article in the Dayton Daily News
. Her basic training was at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. When she entered the Army, her maiden name was Collins, she later married while still in the Army and her husband's last name was Morrison.
Anna Morrison's name is recognized in civil rights history. She was one of the four WACs who took on the U.S. Army in 1945 in the fight for better work assignments for African American WACs at the Lovell General Hospital at Fort Devens, MA. The four women were Johnnie Murphy from Rankin, PA; Alice Young from Washington, D.C.; Mary Green from Conroe, TX; and Anna Collins Morrison from Richmond, KY. The women led in the work strike that started March 9, 1945. The four refused to go back to work and were court-martialed on March 19, 1945. The next day the women were sentenced to one year of hard labor in prison with a dishonorable discharge for each woman. News of the trial and the convictions were carried in a few Kentucky newspapers including The Courier-Journal, Owensboro Messenger
, The Park City Daily News
, The Lexington Herald
, and the Lexington Leader
The case of the four Negro WACs was one of the most publicized military trials during WWII. The Black press had first covered the strike and later the court-martial and conviction, and from there it became a top story in hundreds of the mainstream newspapers throughout the United States. After the trial, the Black press, Black women's organizations, and Civil Rights organizations and leaders responded in force with their support for the four WACs. Thurgood Marshall of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund was chosen as the attorney to represent the four women in their appeal. The women were confined to rooms in the Lovell Hospital during the appeals process.
The appeals worked in the women's favor. On April 2, 1945, their sentences were revoked and they were allowed to return to duty at the Lovell Hospital. Captain Myrtle Anderson was placed in charge of the segregated 4th WAC Company of African American women. The African American WACs continued to be assigned the most menial jobs and they did not receive the training that was promised when they signed up.
At the end of her military career in 1946, Anna Collins Morrison received an honorable discharge and moved back to Richmond, KY. She could not find work and moved to Dayton, OH, where she was employed as a nurse's aide. From Dayton, she moved to New York City where she earned her licensed practical nursing degree (LPN). After almost 30 years in New York, she returned to Richmond, KY, where she died in 2009. Anna Collins Morrison was the daughter of Emma Spillman and Joseph Collins (sources: Kentucky Birth Index in Ancestry; and "Service notes," The Journal Herald
, 05/26/1944, p.14).
Sources: "Widow of sailor enlists in WAC," Dayton Daily News
, 05/26/1944, p.12; Glory in Their Spirit: how four Black women took on the Army during WWII
by Sandra M. Bolzenius; The 1945 Black WAC Strike at Ft. Devens
by Sandra M. Bolzenius (dissertation online at etd.ohiolink.edu); "Four Colored Wacs discharged after hearing," The Park City Daily News
, 03/21/1945, p.7; "Negro Wacs convicted; given year at hard labor," The Boston Globe
, 03/21/1945, front page & p.3; "Four Negro WACs given pen terms," The Owensboro Messenger
, 03/22/1945, p.3; "Four Negro WACs restored to duty," Lexington Herald
, 04/04/1945, p.2; "4 Negro Wacs are restored to duty," Pampa Daily News
, 04/06/ 1945, p.7; "Four convicted WACs restored to duty by commanding general," The New York Age
, 04/07/1945, front page; "The Lynn Committee asks the removal of Col. Crandall in WACs courtmartial case," The New York Age
, 05/05/1945, p.2; and "Black women in WWII deserve remembrance," Sunday Montgomery Advertiser
, 11/10/1991, p.4D.