In a unique opportunity to celebrate Black History Month and the 100th anniversary of women students at Virginia Tech, the Military Women’s Memorial will bring a special traveling exhibition, “The Color of Freedom: Honoring the Diversity of America’s Servicewomen,” to Newman Library in February.
Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus is the inaugural stop on the exhibition’s tour, sponsored by Virginia Humanities. It will be on display Feb. 10-28 on the library’s fourth floor, across from the Corps of Cadets Museum space. An opening celebration is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Feb. 10, and the public is invited to attend.
Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the contributions of military women of color who have served throughout American history. It includes the stories of military servicewomen of color along with QR codes to access oral histories that provide firsthand accounts of select servicewomen featured in the exhibit.
The exhibition’s goal is to build awareness of the sacrifices of women from diverse backgrounds who forged a path for women of all backgrounds to serve in and with the U.S. military.
That mission is important to the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, which partnered with the Military Women’s Memorial to bring the exhibition to campus, said Capt. Jamie McGrath, director of the corps’ Rice Center for Leader Development. In 1973, Virginia Tech was among the first of the senior military colleges to admit women to its Corps of Cadets, three years before the federal service academics.
In 2005, the Corps of Cadets named its first Black female regimental commander, Christina Royal, who graduated in 2006 with a degree in sociology from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force. The most recent Black female in that role was Mame Ngom in fall 2020, who graduated in 2021 with a degree in political science from the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and was commissioned into the Air Force.
“The Military Women’s Memorial’s mission to honor and tell the stories of women, past and present, who serve our nation aligns with these traditions,” McGrath said. “Bringing the ‘Color of Freedom’ traveling exhibit here highlights the strong tradition of women leaders at Virginia Tech and demonstrates our commitment to honoring those who’ve served and encouraging those who will serve our nation in uniform.”
The University Libraries partnered with the Corps of Cadets to host the exhibition.
“It is an honor to help highlight the military contributions of women of color to the U.S. Armed forces, women’s history, and to share their achievements here at Virginia Tech,” said Scott Fralin, University Libraries’ exhibit curator and learning environments librarian.
Located at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery, the Military Women’s Memorial is a memorial and education center honoring women’s contributions to the service of our nation. It is the only historical repository documenting all women’s service through an interactive database, educational exhibits, and world-class collections.
At Virginia Tech, July 2021 through December 2022 marks two major milestones in the university’s history: the 150th anniversary of the university’s founding and the 100th anniversary of women students at Virginia Tech. Women were first admitted to the university for full-time studies in 1921.