One of the questions asked in class this past week was . . . “Are there any memorials to Civil War African Americans?” The only one we could come up with was the Robert Shaw Memorial in Boston. After searching the internet, I have discovered a number of monuments dedicated to the African American (referred to in the past as “Colored”) veterans of the Civil War. In fact there is not only a monument in Washington, D.C. but a museum dedicated to the service of African Americans during the Civil War. The “Spirit of Freedom” and the African Civil War Memorial and Museum can be seen at: African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. The museum opened in 1999 and relocated to its present location in the “U” Street District in 2011.
The following list is found on the website “ Monuments to the United States Colored Troops (USCT): The List http://jubiloemancipationcentury.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/monuments-to-the-united-states-colored-troops-usct-the-list/
List of USCT Monuments:
1. The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry; New Haven, Connecticut.
2. The African-American Civil War Memorial – The Spirit Of Freedom; Washington, District of Columbia
3. 2nd Regiment Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops; Fort Myers, Florida
4. Colored Soldiers Monument (AKA Kentucky African American Civil War Veterans Monument); Frankfort, Kentucky
5. In Memory of More Than 400 Prominent United States Colored Troops from Kent County; Chestertown, Maryland
6. Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment; Boston, Massachusetts
7. African American Monument; Vicksburg, Mississippi
8. 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Civil War Monument – “Battle of Island Mound”; Butler, Missouri
9. 56th United States Colored Troops Monument; St. Louis, Missouri
10. Soldiers’ Memorial at Lincoln University, Missouri; Jefferson City, Missouri
11. In Memory of the Colored Union Soldiers: Hertford, North Carolina
12. United States Colored Troops National Monument; Nashville, Tennessee
13. West Point Monument (AKA Norfolk African-American Civil War Memorial); Norfolk, Virginia
It seems noteworthy that most of these memorials dedicated to African American soldiers are located in previously Confederate states or in what were border slave states. There are memorial statues or monuments in Norfolk, VA, Hertford, NC, Nashville, TN, and Vicksburg, MS. One must admit that the impressive statue in Vicksburg is surprising.
Most of these monuments have been placed in recent times (after the 1990s). However it does depict a willingness to acknowledge the role and impact of African Americans during the American Civil War. It seems impossible to place these monuments in southern locations and previous slave states without recognizing the issue of slavery and its role upon the division of our nation and the agency of African American men in playing a decisive role in achieving northern victory. Granted, there are only a few of these monuments in contrast to the hundreds depicting the courageous Confederate soldiers; but a few may signal something significant in how this nation’s memory of the Civil War may be changing. Do a few memorials to African American veterans of the Civil War mark a new view of the Civil War or are they simply a way to appear more diverse and appease the African American populations of the South? Could they be an attempt to include the “Colored Troops” in the reuniting effort of all the soldiers uniting in valor and courage?