Throughout WWII, U.S. armed forces remained segregated along racial lines. Even though over 900,000 African-Americans served in the armed forces during the war—proving their worth time and again—they were still viewed with suspicion by many of their white commanding officers and others.
LaMont Martin of Gulfport was drafted into the Army after graduating high school in 1942. In this episode, he shares some of his memories from that time, like how he and his buddy got left behind when the bus carrying them to Fort Benning, Georgia stopped for a meal in Alabama. After basic training, Martin was stationed in Massachusetts before being deployed to the European Theater. He remembers the day that he and a fellow soldier accidently wandered into a “white” USO club while visiting Boston.
Waiting to cross the English Channel into France, black soldiers were restricted from fraternizing with English women. LaMont Martin discusses the prevailing attitudes of that time and remembers how the reported rape of a German woman almost led to a race riot and the court-martial of their entire company.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Sean Buckelew, and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
Gulfport native Aurabelle Caggins lost her parents at a young age and went to live with her uncle’s family. In this episode, she shares her memories of growing up in a household where everyone was required to earn their keep. For Caggins that meant getting up each morning at 5 AM, to wash clothes in a cast iron pot, before walking to school.
When Caggins began attending school in 1925, students were required to purchase their textbooks. Often having no money for books or supplies, she remembers having to do homework, late at night, using books borrowed from her classmates.
Caggins began working odd jobs in high school to earn money for things like material for Home Economics class. Her grades earned her a $50 scholarship and she arrived at Alcorn State with enough money for her tuition and entrance fees, plus fifty cents. She describes her fear at being called to the matron’s office and the opportunity that meeting provided.
Aurabelle Caggins taught Home Economics in Gulfport for 38 years. She discusses the important life-skills her students received, and laments that Home Economics classes are no longer offered at many schools.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Sean Buckelew and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.