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Special Exhibits
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Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in WWII

Presented in New Orleans by The Coca-Cola Foundation
Official Program Sponsor: Entergy

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

Available for travel August 2016

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 service members 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.

Visit the exhibit microsite to learn more.


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