SF State-produced documentaries tell stories of the first Black Marines
The Montford Point Marines were 20,000 African Americans trained in the 1940s
To commemorate Black History Month, a San Francisco State University documentary team will debut four shorts about the first Black servicemembers in the U.S. Marine Corps. Each of the short films will be available on YouTube.
The films are oral histories with surviving members of the Montford Point Marines, 20,000 African Americans trained between 1942 and 1949 in Jacksonville, North Carolina. The first recruits began one year after U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlawed racial discrimination in war industries, allowing Black men and women, although only in a segregated fashion.
San Francisco State History Professor Trevor Getz, who produced the films along with Cinema Professor Daniel L. Bernardi, emphasizes the lasting legacy of the Montford Point Marines and the lessons that can be learned from them.
“They fought the Second World War and the war against racism together. And then they went on to serve the country and their communities for decades after,” Getz said. “They want to pass on messages that are of great value to us today. The team of filmmakers led by Bernardi managed to capture those messages authentically. The results are powerful.”
The Veteran Documentary Corps (VDC), an institute based in SF State’s College of Liberal & Creative Arts, created the films as part of its ongoing mission to tell authentic stories of the American veteran experience. Bernardi, VDC’s director, directed three of them, with Eliciana Nascimiento helming the other. Many other Cinema alumni and students also participated, including Andrés Gallegos, Hannah Anderson, Robert Barbarino, Joshua Cardenas, Jian Giannini and Jesse Sutterley.
“The series in honor of African American contribution to the ideals of American freedom and civil rights was 95% SFSU: from faculty producers, faculty directors, faculty sound designer, alumni director of photograph, editor and animator to a crew of Cinema graduate and undergraduate students,” said Bernardi, who is a veteran of the Iraq war and a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves.
Later this year, Oxford University Press will publish a related nonfiction comic book, “The First Black Marines,” by Getz and SF State History student Robert Willis.