First African American Marines Honored with Congressional Gold Medal

The Marines of Montford Point: America's First Black Marines, by Melton A. McLaurin

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. Melton A. McLaurin’s book The Marines of Montford Point, in conjunction with the documentary film of the same name, tells for the first time the story of the African American Marines who integrated the last all-white branch of the U.S. military in 1942. Drawing from interviews with 60 veterans, McLaurin relates 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. This book serves to recognize and to honor the men who desegregated the Marine Corps and loyally served their country in three major wars.

Today, 70 years after those first African Americans joined the Marines, the surviving Montford Point veterans are being formally honored with the Congressional Gold Medal. Our partners in the Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement project have a great article with details about how this recognition was initiated, plus links to the documentary film, historical marker, and other resources for learning more about the Montford Point Marines. Visit the LCRM blog for Allie Shay’s article, “First African American Marines Recognized—70 Years Later.”