Any Marine can quickly recite the birth date of the U.S. Marine Corps, 10 Nov. 1775. Recruits and officer candidates memorize this and many other pieces of knowledge like the first female Marine, first Marine aviator, and dozens of other historical figures and events. However, for our Black brothers and sisters, the history seems muddled.

Of course, the record speaks of the Montford Point Marines, created after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order to desegregate the armed forces. However, specific events, dates, and names elude the memory of many Marines. After all, Marine Corps curriculum only added the history of Montford Point in 2011.

A timeline created by the U.S. Marine Corps Museum provides the true record: the first Black Marine enlisted almost 170 years before Montford Point, during the revolutionary war. Capt. Miles Pennington recruited Private John “Keto” Martin in April of 1776. The person who enslaved Martin had no idea of his recruitment to the Continental Marines.

Martin served aboard the Continental brig USS Reprisal, participating in a cruise that resulted in the capture of five British merchantmen. He served on the Reprisal until 1777, when the dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships notes that the brig was caught in a storm, destroying it and killing all those aboard but the cook.