A Cal Poly history graduate student is leading a presentation and tour this Friday about a Black artillery regiment that resided in San Luis Obispo during World War II.
“They Faced the Rising Sun: The 54th Coast Artillery Regiment on the Central Coast in WWII” is going to be a lecture, slideshow and walking tour. The event is taking place at the community room in the City-County Library on Palm Street at 2 p.m. or over Zoom for virtual attendees.
The student, Erik Brun, will be leading the presentation on the local Black history. Brun is a veteran and serves at Camp San Luis Obispo in the Californian State Guard’s Military Museum Command.
“This has been hidden history for the last 70 years,” Brun said. “And it’s something I am passionate about.”
The 54th Coast Artillery Regiment was deployed on the Central Coast in early 1942 to protect vital coastal oil terminals in Morro Bay and Port San Luis. Their arrival almost tripled the African-American population in San Luis Obispo County, according to the San Luis Obispo County History Center press release.
The regiment moved into the tenements previously occupied by the Japanese population in San Luis Obispo after they had been moved to internment camps during World War II, according to Brun. Brooks Street became the center of the Black community in San Luis Obispo during the 40s and 50s.
“These are soldiers and their mission in the Central Coast in World War II was white-washed in history,” Brun said. “I’m indignant as a soldier and doubly indignant because the reason was because they were Black. To find that there were segregated groups in SLO shows how pervasive [racism] was.”
Brun said he believes this information needs to be made available because it’s interesting to learn about the local ties San Luis Obispo has to World War II and the Black soldiers who served during the war.
A portion of the event will include roleplay, followed by more information about the regiment and their lives in San Luis Obispo County, according to Brun.
The walking portion of the event will include historical sites where segregated United States Organization Clubs entertained Black soldiers during World War II.
Brun will be joined by Jim Gregory, an author and president of the South County Historical Society, as well as Leola Dublin Macmillan, a member of the County History Center Board of Directors, according to the county press release.
The event was made possible through collaboration between the History Center of San Luis Obispo County and the South County Historical Society.