African-American Families and the Evolution of WWII and Korean G.I. Adoptions

After World War II and the Korean War, African Americans devised numerous strategies to care for the children of black G.I.s in Japan, Korea, and countries throughout Europe. Often the support of G.I. children began with soldiers who helped build orphanages, financially supported orphans, and became foster brothers or fathers of a child in need. Many child welfare professionals and the black press celebrated the ways that African-American soldiers abroad and African-American families in the states worked to resolve the problems that G.I. children faced. Stories about these projects played well in the U.S. and abroad, and they highlighted the humanitarian side of the nation’s foreign relations. African-American soldiers and families also attempted to legally adopt G.I. children, and these efforts did not inspire the same uniform approval. However, the unfavorable international attention generated by the G.I. baby crises led to reforms that made it possible for more people to adopt that had historically been excluded from this method of family formation. However, in the cases of adoptions involving G.I. children in both Germany and Korea, African Americans would only be considered ideal adoptive families for a short period of time. This paper examines the reasons the government and military officials, child welfare agencies, and the black popular press produced conflicting assessments of and responses to the transnational adoption efforts of African Americans that evolved in the three decades following WWII.  



Dr. Kori A. Graves is an Associate Professor of History at the University at Albany, SUNY. A graduate of the Program in Gender and Women’s History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Professor Graves teaches courses that explore gender and women’s history, the history of marriage and family, and histories of the body, beauty and identity politics in the U.S. Her book, A War Born Family: African American Adoption in the Wake of the Korean War tells the story of the first African Americans who adopted Korean children, and the ways their efforts revealed the contested nature of adoptive family formation across racial and national color lines. Her research and teaching interests explore the significance of political and popular representations of race, nation, and family – with a specific emphasis on the histories of motherhood and transracial adoption. Dr. Graves is also committed to efforts that support the recruitment and retention of students who are members of historically underrepresented populations, first generation students, and students with special needs.