HISTORY OF CAMP MONTFORD POINT
In 1940 while the United States prepared for war, millions of jobs in the defense industry were being created. Blacks seeking jobs in the growing defense industries, suffered violence and discrimination. Many black leaders including A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the most widely known spokesperson for black working-class interests in the United States, met with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his administration to demand that he sign an executive order banning discrimination against black workers in the defense industry. Randolph threatened to converge on Washington, D.C. with tens of thousands of marchers. On June 25, 1941, days before the march was to occur, Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 which barred government agencies and federal contractors from refusing employment in industries engaged in defense production on the basis of race, creed, color or national origin. It was the first Presidential decree issued on race since Reconstruction. With this order the United States Marine Corps was required to begin recruiting and enlisting African Americans.
Recruiting for the "Montford Marines" began on June 1, 1942. Thousands of African-American men, eager to serve, flocked to recruiting offices. The first black recruits received basic training at the segregated Camp Montford Point in North Carolina. The quota of 1,200 men were housed in prefabricated huts near segregated Jacksonville, North Carolina. Racism continued to exist in the Marines Corps after the issuance of Executive Order 9981. Railroad tracks divided white residents from the African-American troops, and the black recruits were not allowed to enter nearby Camp Lejeune unless accompanied by a white Marine. However, by 1945, all drill instructors and many NCOs at Montford Point were African-American.
Between 1942-1949 more than 20,000 men trained at Montford Point. In July 1948, despite strong opposition from the segregated south, President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which required the desegregation of the military. In 1949 Montford Point was deactivated and new black recruits were sent to Parris Island and Camp Pendleton. During the Korean War, the United States Marine Corps fully integrated.
In 1965, a reunion of Marines was held in Philadelphia which included former Montford Point Marines along with Marines on active duty. Over 400 Marines from throughout the United States gathered, and decided to establish the Montford Point Marine Association as a nonprofit veterans organization, to preserve military history and help people in need. The Association has many chapters, and is a member of the Marine Corps Council, which is a council of Marine-related service groups.
The Montford Point Marine Association maintains a National Museum and archives pertaining to the Montford Point Marines. A convention is held annually to celebrate the Montford Point Marines, make organizational decisions, and distribute scholarships.