In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1941 executive order established the Fair Employment Practices Commission. This opened the door to “full participation in the defense program by all persons regardless of color, race, creed or national origin.”
The Marine Corps would eventually adhere to Roosevelt’s demands to start enlisting African Americans in June 1942.
Marine Corps put out a call to enlist 900 African American recruits between the ages of 19 and 29. Upon entering the military, “Colored” would be stamped upon their service record book. And the Marine Corps kept them segregated and established a training base at Montford Point in North Carolina.
They would come to be known as the Montford Point Marines.
According to a recent story in the Washington Post, former Sgt. Leroy Pittman, 85, still remembers when he arrived at Montford Point in 1948. “It was tough. We had to build our own huts to live in. We spent weeks chopping down trees and dodging rattlesnakes. It wasn’t a joke.” Pittman said they were not allowed to ride in cars or go into town to eat. Harassment or arrest without cause was frequent from the Jacksonville Police Department.