Men of Honor: Story of Carl Brashear - HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS (Illustration) Ethics Government Film Philosophy Biographies African American History Famous Historical Events Geography Social Studies

This map depicts the location of Elizabethtown, Kentucky—the closest city to the home of a young Carl Brashear.


Carl Brashear was born in 1931 to sharecropping parents who lived in Kentucky. At the time, America’s black citizens were still repressed by restrictive "Jim Crow Laws."

Carl’s life in that legally segregated society of Hardin County was a happy one because of his close-knit family. He was the sixth of eight children.

Black children did not have educational opportunities equal to white students when Carl attended grade school in Sonora, Kentucky. The windows in his segregated, one-room school were broken and his books were used.

As he and his siblings walked several miles to and from school, white children (riding the bus to their own school) passed them on the road. When Carl took a bus to the closest city, Elizabethtown, the law required him to sit in the back.

Carl finished the eighth grade before he went to work on the farm his father sharecropped for Dr. Glasscock.

Gonzella Brashear, Carl’s mother and a ninth-grade graduate, also taught her children at home. She and McDonald, Carl’s father, provided a safe and happy environment for their family. As Carl recalls, in his oral history:

We didn’t have electricity, didn’t have running water, but we were happy. We had a lot of love in our family, a lot of togetherness. The entertainment in the evening was my father telling jokes and playing with us and things of this nature.

Religion was also an important part of young Carl’s life.

I think our faith was what kept us going. Well, it played a big part. My great-uncle was a preacher, and there were a lot of deacons and preachers throughout the family.

Carl stayed at home until he was 17. He thought joining the Navy would be a good thing for him. He was right, but he was about to find out why President Truman would soon issue Executive Order 9981 to end all segregation in the military.

It was 1948, and Carl was assigned as a steward. So were the majority of other black naval recruits - as they had been throughout World War II.

After completing his basic training at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Carl was assigned to work at the Officers’ Mess at Experimental Squadron One in the segregated town of Key West, Florida.

0 Question or Comment?
click to read or comment
4 Questions 2 Ponder
click to read and respond
0 It's Awesome!
vote for your favorite

Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Nov 01, 2000

Updated Last Revision: Jan 07, 2016

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"HUMBLE BEGINNINGS" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 01, 2000. Jul 17, 2018.
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Show tooltips