03-04-07, 07:08 AM
Posted on Sun, Mar. 04, 2007
Film looks at history of black marines
ORANGEBURG — S.C. State University will host the documentary film, “The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom,” on March 12, in the Barbara A. Vaughan Recital Hall.
The film, narrated by Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr., is a product of the Montford Point Marines Project: Documentary Video and Educational Resources grant, funded by the Office of Naval Research.
The project aimed to produce a documentary for a national audience, as well as educational resources for secondary school teachers and students. Recruited as America entered World War II, the Marines of Montford Point were African-Americans who from 1942 until 1949 trained at the segregated camp, now a part of the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base at Jacksonville, N.C.
03-04-07, 08:45 AM
Harsh times for black Marines
News & Observer, NC
When I first went in the Marine Corps at Montford Point and as a Montford Point Marine, I experienced definitely harsh, rigid segregation, rigid discrimination. There was no in-between. There were, quite frequently, racial slurs made, directed at us blacks in the Marine Corps. We could not go to the main side [Camp Lejeune, where white Marines were based], that was where they had the PX, except on designated days. We had a time to go in there and get what we wanted to get, and then we had to get out. It was just that way. Many of us rode trucks, and some of us were marched in platoons. That was about thirteen miles over to the main side, the main base on Camp Lejeune. And that was where we were given the "privilege" to go to the PX and buy what goods and services we could. Then we had to leave there and come back [to Montford Point]. That was anathema to me and to a whole lot of other people because we could go maybe once a week or once every two weeks. As far as the racial situation was concerned, I would argue it was no different than outside [in Jacksonville and the civilian world]. It was the same thing. You only had certain places you could go.
Generally, no [i.e., staff members at Montford Point were not racists]. But there were exceptions. And that's when we encountered the officers. I remember distinctly one person's name was, lieutenant by the name of LePointe, who was very vicious in his reaction to us, in his demeanor and his language. I would say, I thought that was really inhumane. And there was another one, but [he was] on the opposite end of the spectrum. We had a warrant officer by the name of Mr. Augustine. Now, he was paternal in his treatment. However, there is no question that he was still a racist. Because when he used the term "you people," he used it so derogatorily it make you want to vomit. When he communicated with us, and spoke sporadically, a few words at a time about a job, he would say, you people are no people. And when I saw you people coming to the Marine Corps, only then did I realize there was a war going on. And it made us feel pretty bad. Made me feel bad.
LePointe. He also used the word "******." And he had no qualms about it whatsoever. Who were we going to complain to? Nobody. There were some people who objected, but it was just brushed off. And I said, oh, well, that's the way with so and so, and so and so.
You have to understand that the Marine Corps at the time was very racist, to be sure. But when you look at the composition of the Marine Corps, the majority of the people in the Marine Corps at that time were from the South anyway.
(From "The Marines of Montford Point: America's First Black Marines" by Melton A. McLaurin. Copyright © 2007 The University of North Carolina Press. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. For more information, visit www.uncpress.unc.edu.)
(Researcher Brooke Cain searches journals and other sources for talk about the South. She can be reached at (919) 829-4579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)