Thursday, February 23, 2017
   
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African American Military History Museum Celebrates Courage, Bravery

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The African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg is a must-see for anyone who is interested in celebrating the courage and bravery of the U. S. Military. From the time of the Buffalo soldiers post-Civil War to Desert Storm, a visit to the museum is a great way to teach kids about history. It is a sure opener of even the most blurry eyes.

Opened in 1942, in the segregated Army of World War II, the building was first a USO Club that served as a home away from home for African-American soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby. Today, the building is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Shuntasia Coleman is the education coordinator of the museum and is an Army Reservist. Her enthusiasm about her work at the museum is contagious.

“I enjoy the museum as a whole, but the fact it was a USO in the 1940s, and knowing what it meant to the African-American community, makes it very special,” she said.

“I’m in the military myself, and experience USOs across the U.S.,” she said, “so to be in one that was open in WWII and learn about what they did here, not to mention being in such a beautiful space helping children grow … I feel privileged to be able to do all of that.”

The museum provides perspectives into the service and sacrifice of the African-American soldier. Hundreds of unique displays, artifacts, and photos fill the museum, including one of the most complete sets of authentic Spanish-American War medals.

Each display tells a story of pioneers like Hattiesburg's own Jesse L. Brown, America's first black naval aviator, and Ruth Bailey Earl, who was the first black female to join the Army Corps. She enlisted as an officer, was a Second Lieutenant, and served in Germany during WWII. Her proud image is revealed through statuary based on a photograph taken in London.

Paige Crane, public relations coordinator for Hattiesburg Tourism & Convention Commission, says one of her favorite things about the Museum is the way the facility celebrates local heroes and veterans.

“For a local museum, it has a generous share of interactive displays, and a very helpful, knowledgeable staff,” Crane said. “And, of course, there’s the display about Jesse L. Brown, who has become so well-known thanks to books (‘Devotion’) and PBS documentaries about his life.”

After visiting the museum, with its rich collection of images and interesting displays, visitors are sure to carry new perspectives along with stories of countless heroes and their many acts of valor and bravery.

For more information, contact Shuntasia Coleman at (601)450-1942 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . The museum is located at 305 E. 6th St., Hattiesburg.

 

Elizabeth Phelps was raised on the Gulf Coast. She is a writer, speaker, teacher, and youth program facilitator. She has won awards for writing and inspirational youth programming using the arts.

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