Lecture series recognizes black history

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Dr. Marcus Cox gave a lecture on the role historically black colleges in Louisiana played in World War II and in the civil rights movement in the 1940s. Jonathan Rhodes/The Lion's Roar 

As a part of the World War II lecture series by the Department of History and Political Science, the Associate Dean and Director of the Center for Continuing Studies and Distance Education in the College of Arts & Sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana Dr. Marcus Cox was invited to lecture on how historically black colleges helped the United States during World War II. He also discussed how they helped during the civil rights movement.

Cox explained why this aspect of history should be discussed.

“This type of history is important because most people do not know anything about it,” said Cox. “Not only don’t African-Americans know about it, white Americans don’t know about it. When we think of World War II, we think of combat troops. The fact that some African-Americans were prohibited from fighting, then the idea is that they did not support the war or they did not have a contribution to the war, which is not true. These are the kind of stories that people need to know because people’s sacrifice and support were on different levels.”

The deeds of individuals such as Felton Clarke who was president of Southern University during World War II showed how patriotic African-Americans were at that time. Cox discussed why African-Americans stood by the country in a time of need.

“People are going to support their families and do what is best for them,” said Cox. “I think African-Americans have been historically the most patriotic Americans in the United States. The reason why is because despite the fact that they were second-class citizens, despite the fact that they could not do what other people did, they continued to support America in many ways.”

Cox believes that a reason why the history behind African-American people during World War II is neglected is because it is not being placed where it belongs in American history as well as black history.

“I used to always tell my students taking my class that ‘This is not a black history class, this is an American history class,’” said Cox. “It really needs to be taught that way, and to be honest, it is not taught that way. When you look at high schools and middle schools today, the reference to African-Americans and Latino-Americans is short. The response that I get from my students at Citadel Military College of South Carolina is ‘Hey, I never knew this.’ Think about the history of the South. It is not even possible to talk about the history of the South without even making references to the contributions of African-Americans.”