The Bugler

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African American Military History Museum: Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Memorial Garden at African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg, Forrest County, Mississippi, USA. Photo by Woodlot.

The United States is a living history story. One example of keeping history alive can be found at the African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which is housed in an original USO building. The history of the USO is described on their website, "Just prior to the onset of America's involvement in World War II in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to unite several service associations into one organization to lift the morale of our military and nourish support on the home front." The resulting organization was the USO, or the United Service Organizations. USO clubs were set up around the world to provide support for local service personnel and their families by providing a place to relax and enjoy time off. As part of the USO's mission to serve all service personnel, even though the United States was segregated during WWII, a club was established in Hattiesburg to serve the African Americans based at nearby Camp Shelby. According to the museum's website, this building is the only surviving USO building that was built to serve the African American community. The building is on the National Registry of Historic Places and a Mississippi landmark.

The Military Museum is really a jewel and their website makes the place come alive. The USO was built in 1942 largely by community volunteers. Unfortunately, the building was severely damaged by a tornado in 2013 but through the efforts of many the museum reopened a year later. Exhibits include the history of African Americans contribution to the war efforts dating back to the Revolutionary War. It has exhibits covering African Americans serving as Buffalo Soldiers through the current conflicts in the Middle East. A couple of Hattiesburg locals are famous in their own right, including Ensign Jesse Brown who during his service in Korea was the U.S.'s first black naval aviator and Ruth Bailey Earl, who was a nurse during WWII. Exhibits on both of these locals are included in the museum. The museum holds one of the largest collections of medals from the Spanish-American War. There is also a large exhibit about the role African Americans played during Vietnam, the first conflict where the military services were integrated. The stone featured in the picture above holds the names of the local residents of Hattiesburg who were killed in WWI, WWII, Korea or Vietnam.

Visit this USO webpage to learn more about the USO and the service that the clubs provided for our troops.

Black History Month Notable Events

On February 26, the U.S. Army Band, known as Pershing's Own, will perform chamber music works by esteemed African American classical music composers including H. Leslie Adams, Valerie Coleman, David Sanford, Alvin Singleton and William Grant Still at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. There will be a streaming webcast of the performance. See the website to learn more about events celebrating Black History Month at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

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