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Friday, November 30, 2012

Jim Crow and Segregation


Can you imagine living your entire adult life making a sacrifice for your country and not even being acknowledged? Some people get upset when they hold open the door for someone and they don't even get a thank you. Or when driving, a driver might let another car enter in front of them in traffic. Where is the courtesy wave, you might ask? The door and driving incidents are slights that one can basically brush off. But putting your human life on the line is pretty serious. The thousands of African American who enlisted in the Marines during the 1940's did so willingly, and my father insisted that he wanted to serve as a soldier in combat.

What is also interesting to note is that the United States had Jim Crow Laws, which were laws that prohibited Blacks from living in certain neighborhoods, to work in certain occupations, or to eat in restaurants. Segregation was the law of the land and water fountains, rest rooms, movie theaters, schools, buses, and trains insured that races were kept apart. Interracial marriages were illegal and a Negro could be arrested if they broke these laws. Jim Crow Laws were intense in the South, where slavery had a stronghold. The South was considered the area of the country below the Mason- Dixie in Maryland. Northern states, which did not allow slavery had discrimination as well, but the discrimination was less intense, covert and subtle.

When discussing Jim Crow with my students, many of them wondered why Blacks were treated so badly during these times. I would explain that in order to enslave someone, you had to make them feel inferior. You  had to make sure that their living conditions were substandard, and not allow them to read or congregate. Families were separated. Rules were established to make Negros "know their place". Tragically, Negros were beaten if they did not obey their slave masters.

The Civil War (1861-1865) was fought to preserve the country, because Southern states seceded over the issue of slavery. Enslaved Africans provided free labor for wealthy Southern plantation owners. Blacks worked long hours picking cotton and farming, creating a thriving economy. Enslaved Africans often tried to escape slavery by fleeing to the North. Sophisticated networks and codes were enabled to outsmart slave owners and slave catchers. Both Northern Blacks and Whites participated in the Abolitionist Movement, a movement that included women to officially end slavery. Once the Civil War ended and slaves were free, the same Segregation Laws persisted. Montford Point Marines were/are descendants of enslaved Africans. Such were the conditions that many of Montford Point Marines grew up in: discrimination and Jim Crow.

                                                           " Separate But Not Equal"                      

But despite this, Montford Point Marines signed up to be a recruits. They signed up and served their country even though they were treated like second class citizens. The Montford Point Marines were some of the  brightest African American men selected.  According to my dad, he loved his dress blue Marine Uniform. He was proud to wear it when he returned to Florida, but it was challenging to wear the heavy wool jacket in the humid weather!  He wore it during a visit  home in July, parading his uniform up and down Second Avenue in Daytona.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Rusty Knife

 As a young girl of seven I recall my father telling my twin brother and me stories of being in World War II. One day he showed us a rusty knife and our eyes widened in fear. So this what being a soldier meant, I thought: having weapons like knives and guns. Before some of you readers question my father's reasoning in displaying the knife, you have to consider the times. Kids during these times played "Cowboys and Indians" and "Cops and Robbers". It was nothing for a ten year old male to have a BB gun or a slingshot.

Children were seen and not heard and particularly Southern, African American fathers, instructed and demonstrated. Lessons and history were constantly discussed and we learned about hard times during the Great Depression and how my father's family survived. We also visited poor neighborhoods in Hartford, Ct's North End during the seventies. These excursions were for us to be grateful for what we had.

I discovered forty years later that the knife that my father showed us was a weapon seized from a Japanese soldier. The government, according to a Montford Point Marine historian, did not want it known that the Japanese surrendered to Black soldiers. Furthermore, during WWII Japanese Prisoners of War received better treatment than the Black African soldiers.

                                                                                  Captured Japanese 

And the knife that shocked me as a little girl in pigtails? It was stolen during a a break in at my father's Florida home.Many items donated from MPMs are displayed in the Montford Point Marine Museum  located in North Carolina.

I think the rusty knife, lectures and encyclopedias led to my interest in history. If you wanted information on a subject you would go to your set of encyclopedias or library back then. But keep in mind Montford Point Marines would not be included....


Saturday, November 24, 2012


Hello all! This is my first post about the Montford Point Marines and  I decided to keep it brief. It is the day after Thanksgiving and I am at my parents house in Connecticut. When you walk into our split level home it is like entering a shrine, because my father is a Montford Point Marine and he received a Congressional Medal of Honor in June of 2012. Inside our living room besides the stacks of Jet and Ebony Magazines, VFW, (Veterans of Foreign War) there are special items in glass cases and frames. There is his special United States Flag, and  letters from our House of Representatives and one of our Senators. There is another official letter from the US Speaker of the House as well. Photos of my dad are displayed, along with the red, white and blue ribbon that held his Medal of Honor. The actual medal is in a safe deposit box ( My father is no fool.)
Did you know it is a felony to steal a Medal of Honor from a recipient? I also posted an image of the medal; bronze replicas are available from the US Mint  from collectors. Some of you are curious about the Montford Point Marines so as a regular reader to this blog you will be privy to my information. Happy Holiday Season!

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