The Marines of Montford Point: America's First Black Marines

The Marines of Montford Point: America's First Black Marines

by Melton A. McLaurin


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With an executive order from President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, the United States Marine Corps—the last all-white branch of the U.S. military—was forced to begin recruiting and enlisting African Americans. The first black recruits received basic training at the segregated Camp Montford Point, adjacent to Camp Lejeune, near Jacksonville, North Carolina. Between 1942 and 1949 (when the base was closed as a result of President Truman's 1948 order fully desegregating all military forces) more than 20,000 men trained at Montford Point, most of them going on to serve in the Pacific Theatre in World War II as members of support units. This book, in conjunction with the documentary film of the same name, tells the story of these Marines for the first time.

Drawing from interviews with 60 veterans, The Marines of Montford Point relates the experiences of these pioneers in their own words. From their stories, we learn about their reasons for enlisting; their arrival at Montford Point and the training they received there; their lives in a segregated military and in the Jim Crow South; their experiences of combat and service in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam; and their legacy. The Marines speak with flashes of anger and humor, sometimes with sorrow, sometimes with great wisdom, and always with a pride fostered by incredible accomplishment in the face of adversity. This book serves to recognize and to honor the men who desegregated the Marine Corps and loyally served their country in three major wars.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807861769
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 09/01/2009
Edition description: 1
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 176,323
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 1840L (what's this?)

About the Author

Melton A. McLaurin is professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He is author of eight books, including the award-winning Separate Pasts: Growing Up White in the Segregated South.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Home Towns
Chapter 2. Joining Up
Chapter 3. Getting There
Chapter 4. Training at Montford Point
Chapter 5. Resisting Segregation in the Civilian World
Chapter 6. Fighting Segregation in the Corps
Chapter 7. Combat and Service: World War II
Chapter 8. Combat and Service: Korea and Vietnam
Chapter 9. Legacy
Epilogue: Interviewee Biographies
Further Reading
Index of Interviewees

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

McLaurin adds invaluably to the literature on blacks in the military.—Booklist

An important contribution to military and civil rights history. . . . [The Marines of Montford Point: America's First Black Marines] is a set of excerpts [of interviews] which, in Studs Terkel fashion, create an oral history of this group of Marines.—Durham Sunday Herald-Sun

Through their own words, we get the true picture of what life was like for these men . . . a gritty and harrowing account. . . . More than a history book . . . a rare treat.—Independent Weekly, Durham, NC

This book addresses an important chapter in American history that has never received due attention. The veterans' oral histories are alternately gut-wrenching, soulful, shocking, and humorous, and always informative. This book should be read and treasured and should inspire museums, textbooks, and other media to take seriously the Montford Point story.—David Cecelski, author of The Waterman's Song: Slavery and Freedom in Maritime North Carolina

An important collection. . . . Opens our eyes to a new range of histories to be explored.—Journal of Southern History

This wonderful collection of personal narratives captures not only the struggle but also the triumph of the Montford Point Marines' quest to become part of our nation's most elite fighting force, despite overwhelming odds. Their voices will be heard through this book, telling their poignant testimonies. I am truly honored to walk in their footsteps.—Colonel Adele Hodges, USMC

Beautifully collected interviews. . . . Anyone interested in any aspect of the civil rights struggle or the history of race relations in the U.S. must read this book. . . . Essential.—Choice

A valuable contribution to our understanding of the black military experience in World War II.—North Carolina Historical Review

What emerges beyond question is that these veterans felt themselves to be Americans, and knew themselves to be men, long before they were acknowledged as Marines.—Multicutural Review

Eloquent, unedited stories.—Our State


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