The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


African American Military History Museum celebrates 15 years

Abigail Troth
Veterans present at the celebration stood and saluted during the presentation of the National Anthem.

Nestled in the Sixth Street Museum District is one of the oldest USO buildings remaining in America. Now, that building has spent 15 years honoring the sacrifices and triumphs of African American soldiers. The African American Military History Museum celebrated this paramount success with the community. 

The museum’s current location was constructed in 1942 and was more commonly known as the place for members of the USO to gather in Hattiesburg. But in 2009, the building became the official home for the historic museum. 

Throughout the building, there are pieces of memorabilia honoring the many different wars that have seen American participation. From the Revolutionary War to the Global War on Terrorism, the museum honors the African Americans that gave their all in these battles. But one quote in particular stood out. 

“There has been no war fought by or within the United States in which African Americans did not participate.” 

This is one of the biggest reasons that the African American Military History Museum exists in Hattiesburg. Now, the museum has 15 years under its belt and is still working on expanding. The museum will be establishing a temporary exhibit that will focus on the lives of 12 African American servicemen from Mississippi who were killed in World War II. These soldiers are buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery, which has honored their memory since the end of the war.

The celebration brought together veterans and members of the Hattiesburg community, including Lt. Col. Raylawni Branch, one of the first African American students to integrate USM. Mayor Toby Barker greeted guests and congratulated the museum on their monumental achievement. Barker looked back on the strife that the museum had overcome, such as the powerful tornado that ravaged Hattiesburg in 2013. Yet he also fondly remembered how the museum has hosted programs and educated the community on African American military history.

“This museum is anchored, not only in the Sixth Street Museum District,” Barker said. “I also believe that it has fostered a community of people, who have an active and tangible appreciation for history…”

Members of the museum advisory committee praised the museum for its expansion efforts, and reflected fondly on the growth the historic building has seen. The museum has been featured on the History Channel in its rich history, and more recently hosted a special event featuring the cast of the 2022 film Devotion, which told the story of Hattiesburg naval aviator Jesse L. Brown.

“We are honored to be able to serve and to represent those from whom this building was built, and we thank the City of Hattiesburg,” said retired Col. Sheila Varnado, AAMHM Committee President. 

After the speakers completed their praises, awards were presented to distinguished members of the community for their service. Guests were also treated to cake and other refreshments, and were invited to walk around the museum (led by Branch herself).

The museum is open for the public Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. The building is located in the Sixth Street Museum District, where locals can take a step through time to be educated on this city. 

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