Congressman John Yarmuth presented two local members of the Montford Point Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday.
The Montford Point Marines are the first African-Americans to enlist and serve in the United States Marine Corps. Approximately 20,000 black recruits were trained for combat in World War II, breaking the armed services color barrier.
Yarmuth says the men who enlisted in the Montford Point Marines deserve to be honored for their military service, but also for breaking Jim Crow segregation.
“The Montford Point Marines changed the course of history and their story continues to inspire all of us in the fight for racial equality to do more. What happened at Montford Point was a key moment of progress in U.S. history with 20,000 unique stories of triumph,” he says.
Last year, Congress unanimously approved legislation to award Montford Point Marines with the Congressional Gold Medal. Louisville natives Corporal Robert Baker and Sergeant Charles Lowery were both honored for enlisting in 1943.
Over 13,000 black recruits from Montford Point served overseas in World War II.
State Senator Gerald Neal attended the event. He says he is proud of the recognition that the Montford Point Marines are receiving, but that the honor demonstrates how long change takes.
“It underscores the fact that it’s late, it’s long and it points out the fact that we have a sordid history and past of discrimination, and how much that is a legacy we’re embracing now,” he says
“When I wake up in the morning I don’t see any reason why I or other people that look like me shouldn’t have the benefits and privileges of all people,” says Neal. “And when a society doesn’t move in that respect at the present or at the moment, I got a problem with that.