5 African American men among the first to enlist in the Marines awarded Congressional Gold Medals

CHARLOTTE — The families of five North Carolina veterans who were among the first African Americans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corp received one of the nation’s highest honors on Sunday.

The Congressional Gold Medal -- Congress’ top expression of appreciation for distinguished contribution -- was posthumously awarded to the five men who were original members of the Montford Point Marines.

Cpl. James Elijah, of Connor; Cpl. Robert Givens, of Salisbury; and three Charlotte men, Cpl. Raymond Smith, Pfc. Raymond Davis and Cpl. Darling Quashie, received the recognition Sunday night at the Omega House of Charlotte. Families of the Marines accepted the awards in their honor.

The five men were among the first African Americans to enlist in the Marine Corps in 1942 after President Franklin Roosevelt banned discriminatory employment practices by federal agencies.

The early enlistees were dubbed the “Montford Point Marines” for the North Carolina Marine base where African American recruits trained segregated from their white counterparts at Montford Point near Jacksonville.

In 2011, President Barack Obama signed a law awarding all Montford Point Marines the Congressional Gold Medal for their contribution to the Allied victory in World War II.

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