In June 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt opened the Marine Corps to African Americans through an executive order (8802) that prohibited racial discrimination by any government agency.[1] Previously, African Americans had been barred from Marine Corps service. While Branch was attending Temple University, he received a draft notice from the Army. When he reported for induction to Fort Bragg, North Carolina in May 1943, he was chosen to become a Marine.[1] He underwent training in Montford Point, North Carolina along with other African-American Marines (who became known as "Montford Point Marines").On 10 November 1945, Frederick C. Branch, the first African-American ever commissioned in the Marine Corps, and a veteran of the 51st Defense Battalion, smiles proudly as his wife pins the gold bars of a second lieutenant on his uniform.


SInce this time many African Americans in all branches of service have become officers and gained notable prominance within all branches of Service, to include a signifacant break through in the ranks of the women in the Military. For the Marine Corps, the notable rise of General Offices and enlisted have truely demonstrated an acceptance of the many challenges that have been placed amoung the African American community. These strives are the cutting path of many whom chose to become a part of the military community and shows that any African American can be a sucessful leader and mentor for those whom wish to follow in the foot steps of the many that made this possible. Click on the images to learn more details of the Marines below.


Lieutenant Generals

Being the first at anything can be a challenge. Being the first African American pilot in the Marine Corps was no exception for Lieutenant General Frank Petersen. The Marines may have sought him out for the training, and encouraged his success, but when the young officer arrived for his first assignment, the reception was a little different.Lieutenant General Ronald S. Coleman is the Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs for the United States Marine Corps. LtGen Coleman, advanced in rank to lieutenant general on October 27, 2006, became the second African-American in the Marine Corps to reach the 3-star rank.[2]Recently promoted, Lieutenant General Willie J. Williams

Frank E. Peterson - Ronald S. Coleman - Willie J. Williams

Leutenant General Walter E. Gaskin, Sr. is currently the Vice Director, Joint Staff. His previous command was 2nd Marine Division (2006-2008), and Commander, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward)(2007-2008) and Commanding General Multinational Force - West, Fallujah, Iraq.

Walter E. Gaskin - Ronald L.Bailey - Vincent R. Stewart


Major Generals

General Stanley is a 1969 graduate of South Carolina State University. He received his M.S. from Johns Hopkins University in 1977. His formal military education includes Amphibious Warfare School (1978), the Naval War College (1983), U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College (1984), and National War College (1988). Major General Fields retired from the United States Marine Corps in January 2004 after over 34 years of active military service. At the time of his retirement, General Fields was serving as the Deputy Commander of Marine Corps Forces in Europe, headquartered at Stuttgart Germany. He traveled extensively throughout Europe and the African Continent during this period. Previous assignments included: Director of the Marine Corps Staff at Headquarters Marine Corps where he supported the Commandant of the Marine Corps in executive oversight of a defense force of over 250,000 personnel including active duty, reservist, and civilians; Commanding General of Marine Corps Base Hawaii; Commander U.S. Central Command's Forward Headquarters Element, with dual responsibilities as the Inspector General of U.S. Central Command which at that time was responsible for U.S. defense and security interests in the Horn of Africa and all of the Middle East and Southwest Asia; and Chief of the Evaluation and Analysis Division of the Plans and Interoperability Directorate (J-7) of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. Since then, Jackson has risen to the rank of major general and now serves as U.S. Africa Command’s director of operations and logistics.

Clifford L. Stanley - Arnold S. Fields - Anthony L. Jackson

Major General Cornell A. Wilson, Jr. is currently serving as Director, Reserve Affairs Division, Manpower & Reserve Affairs, Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, Quantico, Virginia.Major General Williams was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His formative years were spent in Reading and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received a B.S degree from Slippery Rock University, PA, in 1975. He reported to Officer Candidate School in January 1976, and received his commission in March 1976. He received Master's degrees from Georgetown University in Government and National Security Affairs in 1981, from Yale University in Hospital Management/Public Health in 1984, and from the U.S. Army War College in International Security Studies in 2000. Currently, he is in the process of working on his Master's Degree in Computer Engineering and Computer Science.

Cornell A. Wilson, Jr. - James L. Williams

Charles Frank "Charlie" Bolden, Jr. (born August 19, 1946 in Columbia, South Carolina, United States) is a retired U.S. Marine Corps major general and a former NASA astronaut. A 1968 graduate of the United States Naval Academy (USNA), he became a Marine Aviator and test pilot. After his service with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, he became Deputy Commandant of Midshipmen at the USNA. Bolden is the virtual host of the Shuttle Launch Experience attraction at Kennedy Space Center.[1] Bolden also serves on the board of directors for the Military Child Education Coalition.Now Ambassador J. Gary Cooper is currently the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Commonwealth National Bank. He serves on the Board of GenCorp, USX,Protective Life Corporations and PNC Financial Service Group, Inc.Major General Leo V. Williams, III retired from the Marine Corps Reserve on 1 January, 2004 following 33 ½ years of service.  Prior to his retirement, he served as the Deputy Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia.  He was the Marine Corps’ Principal Representative to the Joint Requirements Board, which supports the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in carrying out his responsibility to create the premier, interoperable military force.

Charles F. Bolden - Jerome G. Cooper - Leo V. Williams

Brigadier Generals

Terry Williams

George Walls was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in 1965, serving on active duty for over twenty-eight years until retiring at the rank of Brigadier General in 1993. During his military career, he led units at every rank and served in staff assignments in the United States and overseas. He last commanded the Second Force Service Support Group, Camp Lejeune. From 1991 until 1992, he was the Commanding General of the joint task force that provided humanitarian relief to Haitian migrants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Following retirement from active duty he was the Special Assistant to the Chancellor at North Carolina Central University from 1993-2000, with oversight of various University operations, organizational and management issues and special projects. From 2001 through 2004, General Walls was the Chief Deputy Auditor for the State of North Carolina. His responsibilities included oversight of the statewide operations of 194 auditors, administrative and support staff. Brigadier General Thomas was commissioned a second lieutenant in May 1973. He is a graduate of Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree, Prairie View A&M University with a Master in Business Administration, and Naval War College with a Master of Science in National Security and Strategic Studies. His military schools include the Basic School, Advanced Communications Officer School, United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the College of Naval Warfare.

George H. Walls - John R. Thomas





Approximately 20,000 African American recruits received training at Montford Point Camp (less than 10% of the Marine Corps end strength) during World War II.  The initial intent of the Marine Corps hierarchy was to discharge these African American Marines after the War, returning them to civilian life - leaving the Marine Corps an all-white organization.  Attitudes changed and reality took hold as the war progressed.  Once given the chance to prove themselves, it became impossible to deny the fact that this new breed of Marine was just as capable as all other Marines regardless of race, color, creed or National origin.



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Breaking more than just the sound barrier

Breaking more than just the sound barrier

Being the first at anything can be a challenge. Being the first African American pilot in the Marine Corps was no exception for Lieutenant General Frank Petersen. The Marines may have sought him out for the training, and encouraged his success, but when the young officer arrived for his first assignment, the reception was a little different.

 "For the most part I had total acceptance, but there were some pilots that were upset I'd broken into the exclusive club," the retired three-star General said. "When I got to the base, the other officers didn't believe I was one of them. They started grilling me on where I'd trained and what else I had done. Eventually they called the MPs and I was confined to quarters for impersonating an officer."

 The next day the base commander was livid at the treatment LtGen Petersen received, he said; adding, "Once we were in the air, all differences were set aside."

 Yet when he reflects on 38 years in the Marine Corps, that incident isn't what he recalls first.  He didn't set out to be a role model, he says. "I was there to find out what I could do. I wanted to see how far I could go."

 On the way to earning three stars, LtGen Petersen achieved a lengthy list of firsts, and exceeded his own expectations repeatedly. His is one of two stories being highlighted as the Marine Corps celebrates Black History Month. The other is that of Major General Charles Bolden, whose military career includes 30 days in space as the first African American Marine astronaut.

 The two men are being highlighted because their careers epitomize the important firsts African American Marines have achieved to help future Marines define their legacy in the Corps.

 Both generals look back on their careers as opportunities to excel based on their capabilities. But they also worry that not enough African Americans are considering what they can achieve through becoming a Marine.

 "The Marine Corps is special, and it's really not looking for people who are looking for a job. We're looking for people who want to help people, and serve their country," MajGen Bolden said. "When you look at communities of minority young men and young women, there are a lot of them who are interested in making a difference, but they need to know who and what we are."

 The Marine Corps had integrated only 10 years before LtGen Petersen joined following a two-year stint in the Navy.  He made the switch hoping to become the first African American aviator in the Marine Corps.

 "It wasn't that I wanted to break a barrier, I just always loved airplanes and here was a chance to fly in combat," he said. Over the next 38 years he flew a lot: 285 combat missions over Korea and Vietnam. He also racked up more than 4,000 hours in every airplane in the Marine Corps inventory at the time.

 LtGen Petersen was already breaking new ground as the first African American fighter squadron commander when Major General Charles Bolden entered the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War. A Naval Academy graduate, MajGen Bolden never set out to be a Marine.

 "When I got to the Naval Academy, there were only two things I knew for certain. I would never be a Marine and I would not fly. Aircraft are inherently dangerous," he said. "There certainly was never a vision of being a pioneer."

 He made the about face after meeting a Marine Infantry Officer at the academy. In the course of his career, MajGen Bolden overcame those early concerns, repeatedly, becoming a test pilot and then an astronaut.

 "Others like General Petersen came before me, and the Montford Point Marines had come before him," he said. Montford Point became the Marine Corps' first training depot for African American Marines in 1942.

 MajGen Bolden's career certainly built on the legacy of those who preceded him. In 1980 he became the first African American Marine selected by NASA to become an astronaut. Over the next 14 years, he flew four shuttle missions, including commanding both Atlantis and Discovery.

 But he doesn't consider going into space to be the highlight of his career. That honor would be his command of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing during the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom.

 "When I look back on my life, nothing compares to the last nine years of my career - being with young Marines going into combat and helping their families," he said. "We had such a commitment to each other; it's a team in every sense of the word."

 For those willing to consider becoming a Marine, the opportunity to succeed is only limited by their potential, LtGen Petersen said.

  "I would tell any young (African American) man or woman that we've had a great deal of success in the Marine Corps," he said. "This is not a journey you are starting on your own. This road has been trod by many before you."

posted: Jan 30 2009 Courtesy of: Our Marines.com





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During a demonstration while training at Montford Point, Cpl Arvin L. "Tony" Ghazlo, instructor in unarmed combat, disarms his assistant, PFC Ernest Jones. National Archives Photo 127-N-5334
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Birthdays are (possibly) the most important date of the year to each of us.  Matching them with other people or events of the past is fun.  Connecting with the resemblance and differences are fascinating, and sometimes hold truths and indicators of our place in life.  The African American Registry® connects that special day with yesterday everyday!

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March 29  *On this date we remember the USS Mason, a WWII warship manned by a predominantly Blackcrew that served as a role model for the integration of U.S. Navy ships.  Though launched November 17, 1943 at Boston Navy Yard’s Pier 6, the ship wasn’t commissioned until March 1944. The USS Mason (DE-529) was a Destroyer Escort. Length: 289’5", Beam: 35’1", Draft: 11’10". Speed of 21 knots, with 6 officers, and 150 Black enlisted men. By the time the Mason was decommissioned; all the chief petty officers were Black. The ship escorted six convoys across the North Atlantic.

USS Mason, a WWII warship manned by a predominantly Black crew


First Female Four-Star Admiral

Michelle Janine Howard


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US Army Black Generals

General William E Ward

General William E. Ward

General Colin Powel

General Colin Powel

General Roscoe Robinson

General Roscoe Robinson


United States Air Force Generals


General Daniel James, Jr.

General Daniel James, Jr.

General Benjamin O Davis, Jr.

General Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

Llod W. "Fig" Newton

Darren W. McDew

Larry O. Spencer

Edward A. Rice, Jr.

Lester L Lyles


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