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News Release
Free Admission to the Oregon Historical Society Veterans Day Sponsored by Wells Fargo - 11/06/19

Featured exhibit explores the challenges and triumphs of African Americans who served during World War II

Press Kit: http://bit.ly/fftrtfpresskit 

Portland, OR – In honor of Veterans Day and the Oregon Historical Society’s current exhibit, Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II, admission to the museum will be free to all on Monday, November 11, thanks to the generous support of Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo is one of two national sponsors of this touring exhibit, on loan from The National WWII Museum based in New Orleans. Representatives from Veterans Legacies will also be on site to talk about their Mighty Endeavor program, with its mission is to gather veterans’ oral histories, recordings, images, and videos with the intent of using their stories to educate youth and help reconnect veterans with the community they served.

On view through January 12, 2020, Fighting for the Right to Fight features artifacts, photographs, and oral histories that highlight some of the extraordinary achievements and challenges of African Americans during World War II, both overseas and on the Home Front. Also on display at the Oregon Historical Society museum is Ladies and Gentlemen… The Beatles!, which ends its run on November 12.

Museum hours on Veterans Day are 10am to 5pm.

About Fighting for the Right to Fight

In the years before World War II, African Americans in many parts of the country were treated as second-class citizens. The government condoned discriminatory practices and denied African Americans many rights and liberties through laws that kept them in positions of inferiority. Due to the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision in 1896, the United States was a nation where “separate but equal” was law in many states. In addition, many military leaders declared African Americans unfit to serve in combat. However, once the war began, thousands rushed to enlist, determined to fight for freedom, while still being denied equality at home.

On display through January 12, 2020, Fighting for the Right to Fight illustrates how hopes for securing equality inspired many to enlist, the discouraging reality of the segregated noncombat roles given to black recruits, and the continuing fight for “Double Victory” that laid the groundwork for the modern Civil Rights Movement.

Through myriad interactive experiences, visitors will discover the wartime stories of individual service members who took part in this journey of extraordinary challenge, from unheralded heroes to famous names, including Alex Haley (U.S. Coast Guard); Sammy Davis Jr. (U.S. Army); Benjamin Davis Jr. (U.S. Army Air Forces); Medgar Evers (U.S. Army); and more.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is an original eight-minute video about the famed 332nd Fighter Group (better known as the Tuskegee Airmen), who in many ways became the public focus of African American participation during the war. Television personality Robin Roberts narrates the piece, whose own father flew with the Tuskegee Airmen during the war.

Including personal accounts from members of the 332nd Fighter Group, the video provides an overview of how their success in battle became a great symbol of bravery, helping refute notions that African Americans were inferior performers in the military, especially in roles requiring advanced training. Lieutenant Colonel William Holloman III recalls his leader Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.’s encouragement: “He said, ‘America’s watching you.’ He instilled in us a pride that I don’t think was there before we went in the service.”

Additionally, Fighting for the Right to Fight features two medals representing the seven African Americans who were awarded the Medal of Honor in 1997, the bittersweet result of a long investigation by the U.S. military on discriminatory policies in the awarding of combat medals. The exhibit will also provide in-depth coverage of lesser-known events and service, such as that of the USS Mason, the first American ship to have a predominately African American crew.

A national advisory committee, including the late Dr. Clement Alexander Price of Rutgers University, helped frame the exhibition. The committee, led by co-chairs Dr. John Morrow of the University of Georgia and Claudine Brown of the Smithsonian Institution, helped advise on the exhibition’s narrative arc and content. To view artifacts and images from the exhibit, and to access educator resources and lesson plans, visit righttofightexhibit.org.


About the Oregon Historical Society

For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms & website (www.ohs.org), educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all. We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view.

About The National WWII Museum

The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world – why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that future generations will know the price of freedom, and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, it celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org

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