Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves
The United States of America originated as a slave society, holding millions of Africans and their descendants in bondage, and remained so until a civil war took the lives of a half million soldiers, some once slaves themselves.
This circa. 1883 lithograph depicts not only African American leaders during Reconstruction, but also forebears who had distinguished themselves in earlier years of American history, such as Richard Allen, founding pastor and bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Also pictured are Frederick Douglass, Robert Brown Elliot, Blanche K. Bruce, William Wells Brown, Richard T. Greener, Josiah H. Rainey, Ebenezer D. Bassett, John Mercer Langston, P.B.S. Pinchback, and Henry Highland Garnett. These men served in a variety of positions, as government officials, politicians, ministers, educators, diplomats, lawyers, and businessmen.
Bomb-proof quarters of Major Strong at Dutch Gap, Virginia, July, 1864
Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry
July 18, 1863, the African American soldiers of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Infantry led a courageous but ill-fated charge on Fort Wagner, a key bastion guarding Charleston harbor. Confederate defenders killed, wounded, or made prisoners of half the regiment. Only hours later, the body of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the regiment's white commander, was thrown into a mass grave with those of twenty of his men.
Fredericksburg Virginia Troops filling canteens
click to enlarge picture