HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WJTV) – The African-American Military History Museum at the USO Historical Club in Hattiesburg is one that brings together several high-ranking local military officers and other local community members from the past under one roof. It’s all about recognizing their contributions to American history.
“This particular USO was built specifically for African American service members. So when they came here, it was a safe place where they knew they would be hugged and they could just come and have a good time,” said Latoya Norman, director of museums for the Hattiesburg Convention Commission.
In 1942, the T-shaped wood-frame building was one of the few facilities black servicemen could frequent in Hattiesburg during World War II.
It was called the East 6th Street USO Club. It was a home away from home as many were waiting to go to war.
“A lot of service men would come in at the tender age of 16 and 17, leaving home for the very first time. They were scared. They couldn’t go anywhere, and it was a place where they knew they could go, and they would be welcome,” Norman explained.
First a haven, it now shows the documented history of those who made the ultimate sacrifice to serve.
As you walk around examining each exhibit, you’ll come across a timeline of history written on the walls, artifacts, ex-soldier exhibits, and oral recordings.
“When you come here, you’re going to learn about the soldiers that you won’t find anywhere else because their family members took the time to bring their memories and share their stories with us. That’s what’s really unique about our space,” Norman said.
“We chronicle these African Americans in the military, and you see how the military evolved. We’re talking about when the military was first integrated, so you can go through a desegregation timeline. There are just a lot of fun components and interactive activities, so it’s a space where people of all ages can really come and have fun and learn about the service members who have made a difference in our United States Armed Forces. And the most important thing is American history, and it’s important that we reflect and honor those who paved the way for us.
Once a vision dreamed up by ex-servicemen, the museum is now an oasis of educational enrichment for current and future generations.
The museum is free and open from Wednesday to Saturday.