Honoring Black History Month In The Marine Corps

20 Feb 2020 | Cpl. Tanner Seims 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

On June 1, 1942, Alfred Masters became the first African American to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. By August of 1942, 900 African Americans were on their way to Montford Point, North Carolina.

44 years ago, in 1976, President Gerald R. Ford stated, “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Ten years later, on February 11, 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed Public Law 99-244 designating February of each year as National Black History Month.

Within the Marine Corps, every year, February is reserved for all Marines to reflect upon the contribution of African Americans in the Marine Corps. The Marines of Montford Point broke ground for the right to serve amongst all who come from different racial and ethnic backgrounds. African American Marines continue to build upon the heritage that has been fought for by previous generations.

“The Montford Point Marines paved the way for us today. They showed America that they can fight as Marines regardless of their skin tone,” said Cpl. Jervonte Dawson, a law enforcement Marine with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). Dawson continued, “We celebrate this month and take a moment to remember what African Americans went through in the past.”

Honor, courage and commitment are the core values of the Marine Corps. During a time of hardship, African American Marines honored the call, stood for what they believed in and had the courage to leave home during the nation’s time of need despite the fact that their basic rights were often disregarded by their fellow Americans. They were committed to the men on their left and right even if they were not seen as equals.

“We honor the past by remembering what African Americans went through during what was already difficult times,” said Lance Cpl. Tyler Knighton, a radio operator with the 26th MEU. “They left for war when they had battles at home.”

African American Marines have offered selfless service on numerous occasions and demonstrated loyalty, leadership and bravery regardless of the many hardships and obstacles placed in their way at home and abroad. This month, we remember the selfless acts of many African Americans through honoring the past and securing future opportunities for all.