The USMC Celebrates African American History Month
2018 National African American History Month
The National Museum of the Marine Corps is proud to recognize National African American History Month during February. African Americans have served their Nation and the Marine Corps with honor, courage, and commitment beginning with the American Revolution and continuing to the present.
Since 1976, every United States President has officially designated the month of February as National African American History/Black History Month. This month had its origins in 1915 when historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (“ASALH”). Through this organization, Dr. Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week in February 1926. This years theme is African "Americans in Times of War."
Throughout our country's history, African Americans have made invaluable contributions to the Armed Forces and the security of the United States. Even in the face of prejudice and oppression, these patriotic Americans showed great resolve and continued to serve our country, support national defense, and defend equal treatment of all Americans. African Americans valiantly served on the front lines alongside their American brethren long before the issuance of Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, which called for “equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country's defense” and led to the full integration of the Armed Services.
During the early stages of World War II, African Americans were able to join the United States Marine Corps. Basic Training was conducted at Montford Point, North Carolina aboard present-day Camp Johnson, incidentally named for Sergeant Major Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson, who later became Sergeant Major of the Montford Point Camp in January 1945.
The first recruits reported to Montford Point on August 26, 1942, for recruit training. Upon completion, they were destined to serve with the 51st and 52nd Composite Defense Battalions. The Marines of the 51st soon distinguished themselves as the finest artillery gunners in the Marine Corps, breaking almost every accuracy record in training.
Unfortunately, discrimination towards African American fighting abilities still existed and when shipped to the Pacific, the 51st and 52nd were posted to outlying islands away from the primary action. The only Montford Marines to see action, and record casualties, were the Ammunition and Depot Companies in Saipan, Guam, and Peleliu. Private Kenneth Tibbs was the first black Marine to lose his life on June 15, 1944.
Visitors can learn more about African-American Marines in all of the galleries and along the Legacy Walk. We honor the sacrifice, courage, and achievements of these Marines, past and present who answered our Nation’s call to serve.
Learn more about the Montford Point Marines in our WWII Gallery.
Download our African-Americans in the Marine Corps Special Topic Guide
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