HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WJTV) – The African American Military History Museum at the historic USO Club in Hattiesburg is one that brings several local high ranking military officers and other local community members of the past under one roof. It’s all to recognize their contributions to American history.
“This particular USO was built specifically for African American servicemen. So when they came here, this was a safe place where they knew they would be embraced, and they could just come and have a great time,” said Latoya Norman, Director of Museums for Hattiesburg Convention Commission.
In 1942, the T-shaped wood-framed building served as one of the few facilities Black service men could go to fellowship in Hattiesburg during World War II.
It was called the East 6th Street USO Club. It was a home away from home as many waited for their departure into war.
“A lot of the service men were going in at the tender age of 16 and 17, leaving home at the very first time. They were scared. They couldn’t just go anywhere, and this was a place they knew they could go, and they would be welcomed,” explained Norman.
At first a safe haven, now it shows the documented history of those who made the ultimate sacrifice to serve.
As you walk to examine each exhibit, you’ll be met with a timeline of history written on the walls, artifacts, displays of past soldiers and oral recordings.
“When you come here, you’re going to learn about soldiers that you wouldn’t learn about anywhere else, because their family members have taken time to bring their memorabilia and to share their stories with us. That’s what’s really unique about our space,” said Norman.
“We chronicle those African Americans in the military, and you get to see how the military has evolved. We talk about when the military was first integrated, so you get to walk through a desegregation timeline. There are just a lot of fun components and interactive activities, so this is a space where people of all ages can really come and enjoy and learn about servicemen who have made a difference in our U.S. Armed Forces. And most importantly, this is American history, and it’s important that we reflect and honor those who have paved the way for us.”
Once a vision imagined from past servicemen, the museum is now an oasis of educational enrichment for generations now and to come.
The museum is free and open Wednesday through Saturday.