Mrs. Rachel Stevenson and John G. Pew christening the Marine Eagle, Philadelphia

May 11, 1943
Credit Line
John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.

In this photograph Mosley captures Mrs. Rachel Stevenson, office matron of Sun Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, and John G. Pew, Sun company president, at the 1943 christening of the Marine Eagle, the first ship built at the Sun yards by an all-black crew. The office matron was a supervisor.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the huge demand for ships led Sun to hire African Americans in every position, from janitors and welders up to supervisors, at their Yard Number 4. At peak production, Yard 4 employed about 6,200 black men and women, with 2,800 others working in the company’s integrated yards.

The flat surface of the ship’s bow consumes the majority of the image and focuses attention on the steel surface, the spatial mass, and the rough textures of the linear welds—the tangible evidence of the work of the black welders. Mosley’s sharp focus on the welds and the simplicity of the geometric shapes contrasts with the soft focus and details in the figures of Stevenson and Pew. The artist frames them with a rope, whose diagonal angle parallels the edge of the ship.

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