“The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom”

Sunday, February 25, 2007

SC State will host a premiere of the hour-long documentary film, “The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom,” on Monday, March 12, 2007, in the Barbara A. Vaughan Recital Hall. The film, narrated by Academy Award Winner Louis Gossett Jr., is a product of the Montford Point Marines Project (MPMP): Documentary Video and Educational Resources grant, funded by the Office of Naval Research, Department of the Navy.

The Montford Point Marines Project is a collaborative effort between South Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW). Its primary goals are to produce a documentary video for a national audience, as well as educational resources for secondary school teachers, and students telling the story of the Montford Point Marines.

Recruited as a result of America’s entry into World War II, the marines of Montford Point are truly a unique group of African-American marines who from 1942 until 1949 trained at the segregated Montford Point camp, now a part of the Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps base located in Jacksonville, N.C. The existence and exploits of the more than 20,000 marines who trained at Montford Point are largely unknown to the American public, yet these men played a crucial role in bringing segregation to an end in the United States and in fighting the Second World War, the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. Because the ranks of the men of Montford Point are rapidly dwindling it was critical that their story be recorded and told.

The marines of Montford Point fought for the United States while contending with racial prejudice within American society in general, with the rigid racial segregation of the American South, and with strong initial resistance from the Marine Corps itself. Their accomplishments are a testimony to the ability, courage and patriotism of these men who are extraordinary, if largely unsung, members of what journalist Tom Brokaw has called the “Greatest Generation.”

Their story also affirms the ability of American society to pursue its ideals of justice and equality for all its members, despite an imperfect past. With this documentary, the Montford Point Marines will now take their place in history along side the U.S. Army’s Buffalo Soldiers and the U.S. Army-Air Corps’ Tuskegee Airmen. SC State has sent numerous graduates into the Marine Corps’ officer corps, including at least two who were among the first African Americans to achieve the rank of general – Brigadier General Arnold Fields, ‘68, and Brigadier General Clifford Stanley, ‘69.

The screening of the film begins at 10:15 a.m. in the Barbara Vaughan Recital Hall at which President Andrew Hugine Jr. will preside. Several of the original Montford Point Marine veterans will be in attendance and they will be joined by Senator Lindsey Graham (R – South Carolina). A number of other local and state politicians, university presidents, military officials, school superintendents and educators have been invited. The screening will be followed by a luncheon and a panel discussion with some of the original Montford Point Marine veterans. For more information contact Dr. Learie Luke at (803) 536-8969.

While SC State provides general oversight of the project and serves as the fiduciary agent, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, which has a TV studio, produced the documentary. UNCW, located not far from Montford Point – now called Camp Johnson, has partnered with Camp Lejeune on a variety of educational projects and programs, and since 2001 has maintained a relationship with the Montford Point Marines Museum, located at the original Montford Point. UNCW-TV studio has produced award-winning documentaries including Paving the American Dream: Southern Cities, Shores & Sprawl and Troubled Waters: The Illusion of Abundance. UNCW-TV produces a variety of programming that is broadcast on The Learning Network of the Cape Fear, Wilmington’s only local educational access television station.

At the premiere, SC State will also feature the educational resources created by the project. These were produced with the help of LetterPress Software Inc. of North Logan, Utah. The resources include an interactive multimedia history program titled, The Montford Point Marines; a teacher resource kit; and a student workbook on CD-ROM.

LetterPress Software Inc. is an award-winning instructional design and e-learning technology company at the Utah State University Innovation Campus. For over a decade, LetterPress has been designing and developing award-winning technology-based training and educational software products through the application of scientific principles of learning and instruction. They have developed programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and various school districts. The multimedia historical programs they create, such as the Tuskegee Airmen and The Underground Railroad, are effective and engaging.

The Montford Point Marines Project also created a website featuring a brief narrative account of the Montford Point Marines. Its uniqueness is its almost exclusive devotion to transcripts from the taped interviews with the Montford Pointers. These demonstrate their varied backgrounds, patriotism, persistence in the face of obstacles and courage on the battlefield. The website (http://library.uncw.edu/web/montford/) will allow millions to access the Montford Point veterans’ history on the World Wide Web.

Dr. Learie Luke, interim chairman of SC State’s Department of Social Studies, leads the Montford Point Marines Project. Luke serves as the Principal Investigator and has the oversight of the entire project. The co-principal investigator/executive producer/editor is Dustin Miller, director of the UNCW Department of Media Production. The film was written and directed by Dr. Melton McLaurin, UNCW Professor Emeritus. Retired Lt. Col. (USMC) Dr. Clarence Willie, Superintendent of Fairfield School District in South Carolina, came up with the original idea for the project and served as the interviewer/Marine Corps liaison. Dr. William Hine, professor of history at SC State, served as the principal researcher. The educational resources were created under the supervision of Mark Lacy, senior vice president of LetterPress Inc. Dr. Linda McIntyre, assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership served as education specialist. The project reported to an advisory board, which included two Montford Point veterans, LaSalle Vaughan of Port Royal, S.C., and James B. Wilson of Wilmington, N.C.