NJ names street after member of all-Black, all-female WWII unit

Gladys Blount was among the 855 Black women of an exclusive postal battalion known as the Six Triple Eight.

A 100-year-old World War II veteran is finally getting the recognition she deserves in her New Jersey hometown.

Gladys Blount is one of six surviving members of an all-Black, all-female WWII unit who have largely been forgotten — until recently. Blount will have a street named in honor of her contributions to the U.S. Army in 1945, NBC News 4 reports. 

Blount’s family and friends gathered in East Orange on Wednesday for the street-naming ceremony, but she was unable to attend. Her great-granddaughter, Willow Davis, was on hand and said the event “made me feel like I have a lot of power in this world as a Black woman, it made me feel like I can do a lot.”

Eva Davis, Blount’s daughter, said she is surprised about the recognition. “She is still just amazed at the attention this has gotten, and I’m happy for her and all the women still living.” she said. “A lot of things we take for granted that should not be. You think about how many people  were so relieved to get this mail, that they’re loved ones sent this mail. They got it late, but better late than never, so it’s beautiful.” 

Blount’s family home on North Oraton Parkway was demolished decades ago to make way for Route 280. The street she lived on, however, will continue to serve as a reminder of her place in American history as it now bears her name: Gladys Eva Blount Way. 

“It may have been a long time coming, but it’s right on time. She’s so elated and happy about it,” said Willie Davis IV, Blount’s grandson, NBC News 4 reported. 

Blount was among the 855 Black women who belonged to an exclusive postal battalion known as the Six Triple Eight, according to NBC New York. During WWII, they were deployed to England in 1945 and worked in a cold, rat-infested warehouse where they sorted through a six-month backlog of letters and packages. 

The women worked in three shifts 24/7 and averaged 65,000 pieces of mail per shift, ABC7 New York reported. The unit was tasked with boosting the morale of soldiers and support staff serving in Europe in WWII by acting as a link between them and their loved ones back home. Despite tremendous odds, the Six Triple Eight were able to complete the task of sorting through millions of letters and packages in three months. 

“They were basically like the internet, sharing information for people way across seas,” said Blount’s grandson, Willie Davis told ABC 7. 

When they returned to the United States, there was no parade or fanfare acknowledging their efforts for the U.S. Army, which was segregated at the time and reluctant to enlist Black women, according to NBC News 4.

Nearly eight decades would pass before the Six Triple Eight would be publicly recognized for their service and heroism. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden awarded Blount’s unit the Congressional gold medal by President Joe Biden, ABC7 reports. Six Triple Eight will also be featured in an upcoming Tyler Perry project and a Broadway musical.

Over the summer, East Orange Mayor Ted Green traveled to Blount’s home in Ruskin, Florida to personally award her the key to the city. “Now after so many years they are actually recognizing and she is stunned,” he said to ABC7 New York. “She is just shocked that all of this attention is being brought to her.”

Green hopes that when young people look at the newly named street sign they are reminded that “so many individuals and women sacrificed for us, and we stand on their shoulders,” he said, NBC News 4 reported.

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