America’s First Black Marine: Alfred Masters (1916-1975)
The first African American in U.S. Marine history, this Langston University student was sworn in at one minute past midnight on June 1, 1942, in Oklahoma City. He shipped out to Montford Point Camp in North Carolina, a new post established to train black marine recruits. Another African American trailblazer, Jimmy Stewart of OKC, championed Masters’ historic effort and soon joined him, along with 900 other black men, as “Montford Point Marines.” They constituted the core of the first-ever African-American marine battalion.
Masters and Stewart both rose to the rank of technical sergeant. Masters was a civilian employee of the army air force when he enlisted. Major Thomas Kendrick, head of wartime marine recruiting in the area, swore Masters in. Kendrick recognized the significance of the occasion, declaring, “We hope we can establish that Masters, an Oklahoman, is the first Negro ever to be enlisted in the marine corps.”
Masters and his wife Isabell, an educator, had three daughters. One of them, Cora, married Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry. Barry’s fourth wife, she remained wed to him far longer than the others, for over 20 years, and until his 2014 death. Alfred Masters is buried at Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas.
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.