Jim Crow America and the Marines of Montford Point in the World War II Era
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The Marines of Montford Point are largely absent from the World War II narrative, and relatively unknown to individuals in the military services and to the public at large. After 144 years of official policy against allowing blacks to serve their country as U.S. Marines, on June 1, 1942, the nation's first black Marines broke the color barrier, gaining entry into a military organization that today carries with it tremendous symbolic and mythic significance in America. Moreover, serving in harm's way to defend a prejudiced nation, black Marines demonstrated bravery and endurance in the face of institutionalized racism. This thesis examines the southern Jim Crow experiences of selected northern African American Marines, focusing on the ways in which these men responded to the discrimination they encountered in the South. It also explores the reasons why these men joined the most racist branch of the military and what knowledge they had of Executive Order 8802 and the Navy Department's May 20, 1942, press release, announcing the Marine Corps's plans for recruiting blacks. Furthermore, it examines the various ways in which all African American Marines coped with Jim Crow laws, and explores the realities that black and white American society created about black Marines and their wartime service. It also discusses how northern and southern black Marines engaged and interacted within a strict segregationist military organization, particularly in how the Marine Corps manipulated the Selective Service in order to protect what senior officers considered to be its elitist image. The comparison to the U.S. Army's framework of task organization and combat employment of black soldiers reveals that the Army made greater strides toward racial justice and equality by allowing blacks to serve as commissioned officers, albeit in segregated units; whereas the Marine Corps instituted no comparable reform. After the war began, the Marines could have commissioned African Americans by following the models of all-black units such as the 93rd Infantry Division and the Tuskegee Airmen. In sum, initial racial opinions shifted differently in each military service during the war; and for black Marines, it officially marked a new tradition of military service.
McCoy, Cameron Demetrius (2011). Jim Crow America and the Marines of Montford Point in the World War II Era. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from