Private First Class Sarah Keys-Evans was riding a bus from Fort Dix, New Jersey to her North Carolina home in August 1952 when she refused to give up her seat for a white passenger. While wearing her Women’s Army Corps uniform, she was arrested and thrown in jail. Three years later, the Interstate Commerce Commission outlawed racial segregation on buses crossing state lines in the case of Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. This case was pivotal in the early civil rights movement.

“I’d like to be remembered as someone who helped somebody along the way,” said Sarah, now 92 years old.

A Midway guest enjoys the Military Women’s Memorial exhibit.

Sarah’s experience as a women of color serving in the military is just one more than 20 fascinating stories told in the “Color of Freedom: Honoring the Diversity of America’s Service Women” exhibit, created by the Military Women’s Memorial, that was on display on USS Midway Museum’s hangar deck during the month of March.

“The opportunity to host our Color of Freedom exhibition aboard the iconic USS Midway Museum was an honor and the perfect way to commemorate Women’s History Month,” said Cathleen Pearl, the executive director of the Military Women’s Memorial. “Through the perseverance, skill and grit of the women profiled in the exhibit, we hoped we inspired Midway guests of all ages and backgrounds.”

“I’d like to be remembered as someone who helped somebody along the way.”

Located at the ceremonial entrance to Arlington National Cemetery, the Military Women’s Memorial is the only historical repository in the United States documenting all military women’s service. It features an education center, interactive exhibitions, a world-class collection of military women’s stories, and engaging programs and events for all generations.

The goal of the 40-foot-long traveling exhibition is to shed light on the sacrifices and contributions of a selection of minority women who served in or alongside the U.S. military throughout the nation’s history. The interactive display includes the accounts of 21 servicewomen of color and brings to light the impact that these women made while proudly serving in the armed forces.

“The public narrative surrounding the events of the summer of 2020 and racial injustice presented us with an opportunity to create an exhibit about military women of color and to tell their often untold and underrepresented stories,” said Britta Granrud, the director of collections and curator at the Military Women’s Memorial. “They have faced barriers on multiple fronts—gender, race, traditional cultural values—in their pursuit and right to serve.”

Sarah Keys-Evans was a civil rights pioneer while still a member of the Women’s Army Corps in the early 1950s.

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