Montford Point Marines
Boots on the Ground
In 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry. While the armed forces remained segregated until Truman’s presidency, Roosevelt’s order opened branches of the military to African-Americans. Those who volunteered for the Marines reported for duty at Montford Point Camp in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. More than 19,000 African-Americans trained at Montford Point between 1942 and 1949, and 13,000 served overseas during World War II. The Marines who trained at Montford Point were part of a crucial movement toward equality.
In 2012 Congress recognized the contributions, sacrifices and unwavering dedication of these Marines with a Congressional Gold Medal—cementing their role not just in the war effort, but also in American history.
Taking the Fight Aloft
Just as the Montford Point Marines fought for equality during their service, the Tuskegee Airmen made their mark on civil rights—in the sky. Called the Tuskegee Airmen because of the Army Air Corps program’s location at Tuskegee University in Alabama, this group of pilots became the first African-American airmen. The graduates and service members of this top-rank flight program completed 1,500 missions to advance the war effort while helping overturn racial stereotypes—feats that required bravery and courage in the face of opposition.
We honor the commitment, talent and sacrifice of the pilots, bombardiers, instructors, navigators and support staff now collectively known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
Lifelong Advocate for Equality
Rosa Parks’ advocacy for both civil rights and women’s rights has earned her the moniker “Mother of the Freedom Movement” and made her a major figure in American history.
On December 1, 1955, Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama public bus. Her refusal to move and her subsequent arrest were pivotal events in the Montgomery bus boycott that changed history. While history remembers her as a quiet fighter, Parks’ bravery in the face of years of prejudice and institutionalized racism reverberates loudly in American history.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King
Leadership in the Fight for Equality
Internationally regarded as a champion of civil rights and nonviolence, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Americans suffering from injustice and prejudice. Together with his wife, Coretta Scott King, he mobilized a nation to take action against institutional racism.
King’s charisma, oratory skills and commitment to nonviolent protest continue to inspire generations of activists. We memorialize his legacy, bravery and dedication each January, but his influence and impact on the nation can be felt every day.
Content updated March 1, 2016