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The Montford Point Marines were the first African-Americans to serve in the United States Marine Corps. The black Marines were segregated at Montford Point Camp to train between 1942-1949. The men served in all-black units, mostly in the Pacific Theater, and distinguished themselves while battling racism from within and enemies from without. In 1965, the Montford Point Marine Association, a military service group, was founded following a convention of former Montford Point Marines.
The integration of the American military was a long process that started in 1941 with an executive order by President Roosevelt that was intended to create fair employment practices in the United States Armed Forces. In 1942, Montford Point Camp was established so that African-American Marine recruits could train. 20,000 men trained at the camp, but the Montford Point Marines were not allowed into neighboring all-white camps without being accompanied by a white Marine. In 1949, President Truman signed another executive order to force full integration of the United States: in the same year, the first African-American woman, Annie Graham, enlisted in the Marines.
The Montford Point Marines are often hailed as important figures in American history, because they willingly fought to protect a nation that still did not offer them basic civil rights. Today, African-Americans make up approximately 20% of the United States Armed Forces. The Montford Point Marines helped to integrate the armed forces and to encourage respect for African-American men and women in the armed forces.
In 1965, a reunion of Marines was held in Philadelphia which included former Montford Point Marines along with Marines on active duty. Over 400 men showed from from all over the country, and they decided to establish the Montford Point Marine Association, one of many nonprofit veterans programs which exist all over the United States to help people in need and preserve military history. The Association has 29 chapters all over the world, and is a member of the Marine Corps Council, which is a council of Marine-related service groups.
The Montford Point Marine Association maintains archives pertaining to the Montford Point Marines, and also works to build ties of friendship in the communities in which it is active. In addition, the Association distributes food, toys, and clothing to the needy, especially during the holiday season. A convention is held annually to celebrate the Montford Point Marines, make organizational decisions, and distribute scholarships.
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