Test of Medal: Charles J. Shaw and the Montford Point Marines

November 11, 2020 - January 10, 2021
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Image Credit: S.Sgt. Charles J. Shaw II with Platoon 44, Parris Island, South Carolina, 1949. Courtesy of Shaw family.

On view in Bowers’ Fluor Gallery November 11 to January 10, 2021, Test of Medal: Charles J. Shaw and the Montford Point Marines is a display on Mr. Shaw, the first Black drill instructor to train an integrated platoon of Marines and an important member of the Black community in Santa Ana, CA. Included in this display are a variety of Shaw’s personal possessions from his time in the Marines, various medals and patches, and most remarkably, his Congressional Gold Medal and Certificate. About Charles J. Shaw Charles J. Shaw II enlisted as one of the first Black Marines in 1943, about a year after Blacks were allowed in the USMC, and served as a drill instructor at the nation’s only base for Black Marines, the segregated Montford Point, North Carolina. In 1949 when Montford Point was deactivated following the desegregation of the USMC, Sergeant Shaw was transferred to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island where he became the first Black Marine to train a group of desegregated marines. In 1956 he moved his family to “Little Texas” in Santa Ana. Around that time Charles Shaw opened the Bar-B-Que Pit on the corner of 3rd St and Hesperian which became a cornerstone of the community. It was among the first Black run businesses in Santa Ana and a pillar of Santa Ana’s Black community. His children were among the first Black students in Santa Ana to attend desegregated schools. On November 23, 2011 President Barack Obama signed into law a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the Montford Point Marines. Almost a decade later, Charles Shaw was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal and recognized for his pioneering role in desegregating the USMC in a private ceremony on October 10, 2020.