Three photograph albums containing 207 photographs and newspaper clippings, an assortment of 147 loose photographs, 3 school certificates, and an employment service certificate from Bassett Furniture, where Wray worked for 21 years.
Born and raised in Henry County, Virginia, Rosa Brown Wray (1934–2006) collected hundreds of photographs of her friends and family. The majority of the photos are labeled with the name, age, and hometown of those pictured. Many family surnames—including Hairston, Ross, Williams, Thomas, and Nolen—appear consistently throughout the collection. The majority of the newspaper clippings and other ephemeral items that Wray saved are related to school events in 1952, such as class valedictorians, school track meets, and news about classmates and friends.
Of special interest are 83 photographs that capture the daily life (1952–1953) of an African American soldier’s service during the Korean War. Wray’s brother Charles Brown Jr. is the subject of the photos, presumably showing his family in Virginia what life was like in Korea. Rather than action shots, however, these photos show Brown lounging, drinking Coca-Cola, barbering, playing guitar, and relaxing with fellow soldiers. The Korean War was the first in which the military desegregated its units, following President Harry S. Truman’s 1948 executive order requiring the military to end racial discrimination. Brown’s photographs reflect this, indicating a camaraderie between the black and white soldiers in his unit. The men posed for group photos, putting their arms around one another, and are shown hanging out together. Their lives in Korea were very different from the world that Brown and other soldiers from the American South experienced when they returned home to strict racial segregation.
In addition to the photographs of Brown’s time in Korea, Wray also pasted a number of newspaper clippings about soldiers from the Henry County area into her albums. These items announced their completion of basic training and their upcoming assignments overseas.