I can’t possibly explain how much I enjoy you guys appreciating my Black History Month posts. I really love that you guys are learning new things. Today’s spotlight is someone that I am learning about with you. Alfred Masters was the first African American to enlist in the United States Marine Corps in 1942.
From its inception until 1941, the Marine Corps refused to recruit African Americans and other minorities. Then, an executive order by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt forced the Corps, despite objections from its leadership, to begin recruiting African American Marines in 1942.
The first black Marines arrived at Montford Point, North Carolina on August 26, 1942. Between 1942 and 1949, approximately 20,000 black recruits received basic training at Montford Point, most of them going on to serve in the Pacific during World War II as members of support units.
During the early years at Montford Point, segregation still played a huge role. The Montford Point Marines were not allowed into neighboring all-white camps without being accompanied by a white Marine. However, in 1948, President Harry S. Truman issued Executive Order 9981, ending segregation in the American armed forces. Montford Point was deactivated as a recruit training depot in 1949.
The Montford Point Marines are hailed as important figures in American history, because they willingly fought to protect a nation that still did not offer them basic civil rights. Their actions set the precedent for the Corps, and their legacy continues within the Marines who serve today.
Alfred Masters died in Anthony, New Mexico on June 16, 1975. He is buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas.
In 2019 in Jacksonville Florida, three surviving Montford Point Marines were honored. John Spencer, a Montford Point Marine, served in the Marine Corps from 1943 to 1963.
The 91-year-old said he was excited to see the progress African Americans had made in the Marine Corps.
“You see, we had one officer up until the time the war was over and he wasn’t allowed to be in combat,” Spencer explained. “Now we see generals, we see captains, we see all the ranks, so we did alright for us.”
The keynote speaker at the ceremony, Dr. Roosevelt Baxter, Jr., is a 25-year-veteran of the United States Marine Corps, who retired with the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant.
— Department of Defense 🇺🇸 (@DeptofDefense) February 9, 2021
Dr. Baxter said he used to wear his uniform for the men who served at Montford Point, just to see their reactions.
“I used to deliberately put on my uniform with all the stripes, and Master Gunnery mark and all that, and I would deliberately go in front of them,” he remembered. “They would light up because when they came through here in 42, it was unheard of to even think that an African American was going to have that many stripes.”
Montford Point Marine Day was established by the United States Congress in 2010. I’m a bit overwhelmed by emotion that so many black men (20,000) enlisted to fight for a country where they were treated as “less than”. We owe them all such a debt of gratitude. It’s really an honor to explore Black History Month. And I am very grateful to share my educational journey with you all. Thanks so very much for reading these. I can see you are all reading so comment if you can. Mostly because I think comments draw in more readers and I really want these to be read. I think they are important and my be me doing a little something to bring us all back together. We all need some healing right now. And I really hope this helps.