Art breaks down barrier

Published 9:32 pm Friday, August 10, 2012

The military, as all areas of American life, used to be a segregated institution. Blacks were not allowed to enter initially, and then they were forced to serve in separate units, train in separate camps and take less-desirable assignments.

In the 1940s, the decision finally was made to allow blacks into the military — a decision hastened, no doubt, by the onset of World War II. But it would still be several years until the services were desegregated.

Twelve years into the 21st century, it appears the National Museum of the Marine Corps hasn’t yet embraced the concept.

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Suffolk native and artist Timothy Giles visited the museum and said he found little evidence of the contributions of blacks in the Marines. So he took it upon himself to create a collage-style watercolor painting honoring black Marines.

The beautiful painting features images of the American flag, a bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty and other icons interspersed with images of black Marines.

But the museum didn’t want to accept the painting and suggested the Montford Point Marine Museum. Hundreds of black recruits were trained at Montford Point, a separate facility located at Camp Lejeune.

That museum has decided to auction the painting as a fundraiser. It’s sad that the official Marine museum has turned it down, but perhaps now the painting will be obtained by someone who can truly appreciate its value.

Giles, himself a former Marine, deserves a pat on the back for his commitment to making sure all of his fellow Marines are honored. It’s yet another example that art can break down barriers — especially the art of a native of Suffolk, which has demonstrated an incredible level of talent.