WASHINGTON– In honor of Black History Month, today the Peace Corps recognizes the important contributions African-American Volunteers and staff have made to the agency’s mission and promoting cross-cultural understanding around the globe with a Press Release.
The news release published today, February 11, 2019, honors African-American Volunteers and a number of noted staff members, including, of course, Carolyn R. Payton, the first female Director of Peace Corps, as well as the first African-American Director, and writes about a few other African-American staff members. (By the way, the Peace Corps Press Release has a type with Carolyn’s first name under her photograph.)
However, the Press Release never mentions the most recognized African-Americans on the first Peace Corps staff, Franklin Williams, who began his ‘international’ career at the Peace Corps in 1961, and was at HQ as Chief of the Division of Private Organizations, and then head of the African Region. In 1965 LBJ appointed Williams the first black representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, from this position he would go onto serve for three years as Ambassador to Ghana.
It is very likely that Director Olsen and the current press office for the agency have any knowledge of Ambassador Williams. However, I would have thought that Director Olsen, who has made the Peace Corps her “career,” would at one time or the other recognized the name.
For example, when I was the Regional Manager of the New York Recruitment Office we established in 1999 the first Franklin H. Williams Award. In September of 2010 that Award was taken over by Peace Corps Headquarters. The announcement, by the Peace Corps Press Office, listed the years that the Award has been given in Williams’ name. Headquarters, however, did not say that the first Franklin H. Williams award was held in the Regional Recruitment Office in New York City in 1999, and that the New York Office named it “The Franklin H. Williams Award.” Nothing gets lost faster in the Peace Corps than its history as we see from today’s Press Release recognizing Black History Months and Volunteers and Staff who are African-American and never mentioning Franklin Williams.