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The Joe W. and Dorothy D. Brown Foundation Special Exhibit Gallery features rotating exhibits that draw on the Museum’s own collections, as well as relevant traveling exhibits from leading institutions around the world.


'Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II' Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II

Presented in New Orleans by The Coca-Cola Foundation

Official Program Sponsor
Official Program Sponsor: Entergy



July 4, 2015 – May 30, 2016
On view in the Joe W. and Dorothy D. Brown Foundation Special Exhibit Gallery


A new exhibition, Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II, opens at the Museum on July 4, 2015. With generous funding from The Coca-Cola Foundation, the exhibition will use artifacts, photographs, oral histories, and associated educational programming to highlight some of the extraordinary achievements of African Americans during World War II, both overseas and on the Home Front.

Fighting for the Right to Fight begins with an overview of America in the 1920s—at the height of the Ku Klux Klan's power—where segregation and discrimination were part of daily life for African Americans. Discriminatory practices were condoned and even codified by the government. Many military leaders declared African Americans unfit to serve in combat. Yet once World War II began, thousands of African Americans rushed to enlist, intent on serving the country that treated them as second-class citizens; determined to fight for the freedom that they themselves had been denied.

The special exhibit will discuss how hopes of equality inspired many to enlist, the discouraging reality of the segregated non-combat roles given to black recruits, and the continuing fight for "Double Victory" that laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Movement.

Through oral histories, profile panels, and artifacts, visitors will discover the wartime stories of individual servicemembers who took part in this extraordinary challenge, from unheralded heroes to famous names—including Alex Haley, author of Roots (US Coast Guard); beloved entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. (US Army); Benjamin Davis, Jr. (US Army Air Forces); Medgar Evers (US Army); and more.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is an original eight-minute video about the Tuskegee Airmen, who in many ways became the focus of African American participation during the war. The piece is narrated by TV personality Robin Roberts, whose own father flew with the Tuskegee Airmen during the war.

Another highlight will be a collection of medals representing the seven African Americans who were awarded the Medal of Honor in 1997, the bittersweet result of a long investigation by the US military on discriminatory policies in the awarding of combat medals. The exhibit also features in-depth coverage of lesser-known events and service, such as the USS Mason, the first American ship to have a mostly African American crew.

Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II will be on display at the Museum through May 30, 2016. It will then go on a two-year national tour.

Visit the exhibit microsite to learn more.
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September 2, 2015
Culture Collision 7
5:30 pm–8:00 pm
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center

September 2, 2015
White Glove Wednesdays
9:00 am–12:00 pm
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion

September 2, 2015
Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of V-J Day
10:30 am–12:00 pm
US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center

September 5, 2015
Victory Corps Saturday
10:00 am–2:00 pm

September 9, 2015
White Glove Wednesdays
9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Louisiana Memorial Pavilion

September 12, 2015
Victory Corps Saturday
10:00 am–2:00 pm

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