View Full Version : Black Marines fought war, racism

11-17-06, 07:15 AM
Posted on Fri, Nov. 17, 2006
Black Marines fought war, racism
UNC-Wilmington seeks distribution for documentary that chronicles struggles
The Associated Press

RALEIGH — The documentary on the nation’s first black Marines is finished. Now its creators want to make sure the widest audience possible has a chance to see their film about the troops who overcame racism to fight for their country.

About 40 of those pioneering Marines attended a screening this week for “The Marines of Montford Point” at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The movie tells the story of the more than 20,000 black Marines who trained at Montford Point while white Marines trained at Parris Island.

“It is a deserving story that the American public needs to know,” said Melton McLaurin, a former history professor at UNC-Wilmington who wrote and directed the movie. “When you meet these guys and talk with these guys, they are so wise and their stories are so poignant. They’re just marvelous, marvelous human beings.”

The film, a joint project of UNC-Wilmington and South Carolina State University, was financed by a $500,000 grant from the Department of Defense.

Actor Louis Gossett Jr., who won an Oscar for his role as a Marine drill instructor in 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman,” narrates the movie, saying that most of the Montford Point Marines “hoped for combat and the opportunity to prove they deserved to be Marines.”

But most did not, and the Montford Point Marines believed their noncombat assignments were based on race. Some did eventually see combat, including at Iwo Jima.

The movie intersperses photos and films with recent interviews with the surviving Marines. Cpl. Archibald Mosley of Carbondale, Ill., recalls that the bullets weren’t marked for white Marines or black Marines.

The bullets were addressed “to whomever they concern,” he said. “And those bullets were just as much concerned to us as they were to everybody else.”

Now it’s up to the university to market the 55-minute documentary. School officials are considering outlets including PBS, BET and The History Channel, said producer Dustin Miller, director of the media production department at UNC-Wilmington. The film also has been submitted to several film festivals, including Sundance.

The story of the Montford Point Marines began in 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order that required the military to accept all recruits regardless of race. Montford Point opened near Camp Lejeune the following year and trained black Marines until 1949, when all military enlistees began training together.

McLaurin knew of the Montford Point Marines through his work as a historian, then learned details from Clarence Willie, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel and former assistant school superintendent in Brunswick County. The two men interviewed more than 60 veterans for the project.

All the Montford Point Marines understood they were making history, that the future acceptance of blacks in the military depended on their performance, McLaurin said.

They represented “the American citizen’s desire to be included in all aspects of the nation’s activities and not be excluded because of a factor over which they had no control and which had absolutely nothing to do with their ability to serve,” he said.

“For any group that is excluded for those reasons, I think what they did holds great relevance.”