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WWII museum tells story of African American soldiers who 'fought for the right to fight'

The struggle of African Americans to achieve some semblance of equality in the military is the theme of a new exhibit in New Orleans.

“Fighting for the Right to Fight” opens July 4 at the National World War II Museum.

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Members of the Women’s Army Corps’s 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in England helped streamline the mail system in Europe, greatly improving soldiers’ morale. (National Archives)

Designed as the exhibit’s centerpiece, an eight-minute movie tells the story of the 332nd Fighter Group, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

As the film points out, they put a human face on the brave actions of the African Americans who served in the highly decorated unit.

Thousands of African American men achieved officer rank during World War II, including these four who became second lieutenants at Ft. Benning, Ga., in May 1942. (National Archives)

In the film, one of the group’s officers, Lt. Col. William Holloman III, spoke of the counsel given by his superior, Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.

 “He said, ‘America’s watching you.’ He instilled in us a pride that I don’t think was there before we went in the service,” Holloman said.

Robin Roberts of ABC’s “Good Morning, America” narrated the film. Her father, Col. Lawrence Roberts, served in the 332nd as one of America’s first black fighter pilots.

Besides the ordinary people who struggled to overcome injustice, the exhibit also recognizes some famous African Americans who served during World War II, including entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. (Army), author Alex Haley (Coast Guard) and civil rights activist Medgar Evers (Army).

The exhibit concludes with an overview of how wartime service helped bring about social change in the years that followed.

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Welders work on the Liberty ship SS George Washington Carver at Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif. (National Archives)

 “Fighting for the Right to Fight” will continue through May 30, Memorial Day - at the New Orleans museum. It will then begin a two-year tour around the country.

Info: (877) 813-3329


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