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Training and Education Command

United States Marine Corps
2004 Black History Month focuses on landmark case

By Cpl. Alisha R. Fitzgerald | | February 13, 2003

MCRD/ERR PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- "What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate and religious prejudice."

Those were the words and thoughts of Dr. Carter G. Woodson that helped fuel the beginning of the celebration and recognition of American Black History during February.
Woodson, founder of the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, established Negro History Week in 1926 to observe the contributions of African-Americans to American culture.

Since 1976, Woodson's original idea has been extended to an annual month-long campaign, celebrating and recognizing the progress and achievements of African-Americans throughout February, known as Black History Month.

As the official sponsor for Black History Month, ASALH has centered this year's celebration's theme around the upcoming 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against separate public schooling for blacks and whites, helping set into motion the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

"It was 50 years ago that the lie of separate, but equal, was exposed as untrue and unconstitutional," said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige in a speech Jan. 7. "In my view, Brown v. Board of Education is one of our most important decisions in our nation's history. The decision ended the myth that there were two kinds of people."

Significant achievements and milestones have been reached in the half-century since the ruling, but the movement towards integration has been a slow process and some would argue that there is still a long way to go.

"No one should ever be complacent about where they're at," said Cpl. Ernest J. Robinson, assistant operations chief, Depot Operations and Training. "We must always strive to do better. We can't settle for mediocrity."

As a Marine, Robinson said he is thankful for the efforts of black Marines who came before him. Along with other African-Americans, he feels their labors made it possible for him to hold his title today.

"I am the result of what they did," said Robinson. "Through their determination and hard work, they dealt with discrimination and harsh words, so that I would not have to endure it today."

Like public schools, the armed forces also kept blacks and whites separate. They would not become fully integrated until after World War II.

The Marine Corps was no different, as African-Americans were not allowed to join until 1942. Their training facilities remained separate, however, and were located at Montford Point, N.C.

Today, African-Americans make up approximately 14 percent of the Marine Corps.

"The Marine Corps is a melting pot," said Robinson. "Band of brothers does not distinguish black, white or whatever. It's a bond and unity shared throughout the service."

For Marines, as well as all Americans, February serves as a time to reflect on the important events throughout black history that have helped shape America today.

"It makes us aware of things that have happened in our past that we don't want to repeat," said Robinson. "History is not always pleasant, but it's a great learning tool. This is a time of celebration that allows us to be thankful for the progress that we've made."

Robinson is the Headquarters Co., H&S Bn. representative for the Depot Single Marine Program and is currently trying to put together a trip to Atlanta to visit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace and gravesite to celebrate Black History Month Feb. 20-21. For more information, call Robinson at 228-2458.

Beaufort Memorial Hospital is holding events throughout the month. A job applications and interviews class is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Beaufort Medical Plaza.

A Black History Program is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Technical College of the Lowcountry auditorium. There will also be a health fair from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. in the BMH employee parking lot. Feb. 28.

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call 522-7892.

For the Depot, Cynthia Golson, Depot Deputy Equal Employment Opportunity Officer, is putting together an event for this summer to celebrate different ethnic heritage months. To volunteer, or for more information, call 228-2647.

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