Honoring the history and legacy of the Montford Point Marines

This Black History Month, Channel 9′s Glenn Counts is highlighting the history and legacy of the Montford Point Marines. They were the first Black U.S. Marines who trained at a segregated facility in North Carolina near Camp LeJeune.

In 2022, Charlotte renamed a street in Uptown in honor of Montford Point. Counts spoke with the family of an original member and looked at what was being done to preserve their legacy.

It has never been easy to become a Marine, but these men walked perhaps the most difficult path in the history of the corps to become Montford Point Marines.

Craig Little, president of the local Montford Point Chapter, said in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an order that allowed African Americans into the Marines. However, they had to serve in segregated units, and those who volunteered had it rough.

“It’s not just American history; it’s not just Black history; it’s world history,” Little explained. “The only thing they wanted to be was recognized as United States Marines, which was really difficult during those times.”

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Tracy Green Sullivan’s father, Darling Quashie, was an original Montford Point Marine and spoke with her about his time serving.

“He said they treated him so badly, and they were so racist,” Sullivan said. “He was 19 and he was ecstatic, but then when he got there, he was saying they treated them like trash, to be honest, and it was like he’s never experienced any of that because he grew up in the islands.”

When Montford Point opened, all of the drill instructors were white. However, eventually the corps recognized the need for a Black drill instructor. However, that change did not result in better conditions. If anything, some said it got even tougher because some were trying to prove that Black people can be Marines.

“Failure was not an option with the Montford Point Marines,” Little echoed.

From 1942 to 1949, thousands of Marines came through Montford Point. Many of them were in combat support roles, but in order to truly help, they had to fight their way to and from the front lines.

“They are really like unsung heroes; no one ever bragged about where they served or if they received any metals for valor,” Little said.

The U.S. Marine Corps resisted integration more than any other branch of service. But when World War II demonstrated that African Americans could fight, they took notice and changed.

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Retired Major General Cornell Wilson joined the corps in 1972 and rose through the ranks.

“It’s been challenging but very rewarding,” Wilson explained. “They have allowed people like me to come along later on, build on their tradition of success, and become general officers.”

In 2011, President Barack Obama brought the history of the Montford Point Marines out of the shadows by awarding them a Congressional Gold Medal. Sullivan said her father, Darling Quashie, was one of the recipients.

“He loved life; he loved the Lord,” she said.

These Marines fought for the right to fight, battling discrimination at home as well as the enemy abroad. And they made sure there would be no question regarding who would prevail.

“You got to train hard and be able to accomplish the mission and fight and win—not just fight, but fight and win, and that’s what we hang our hat on,” Wilson said.

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