ad info

CNN.com
 MAIN PAGE
 WORLD
 ASIANOW
 U.S.
 LOCAL
 POLITICS
 WEATHER
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 TECHNOLOGY
 NATURE
 ENTERTAINMENT
 BOOKS
 TRAVEL
 FOOD
 HEALTH
 STYLE
 IN-DEPTH

 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

  CNN WEB SITES:
CNN Websites
 TIME INC. SITES:
 MORE SERVICES:
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines
 pointcast
 pagenet

 DISCUSSION:
 message boards
 chat
 feedback

 SITE GUIDES:
 help
 contents
 search

 FASTER ACCESS:
 europe
 japan

 WEB SERVICES:
US

Monument honors black Civil War soldiers

Statue
The "Spirit of Freedom" honors black Civil War soldiers and sailors  
July 18, 1998
Web posted at: 8:45 p.m. EDT (0045 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Thousands of people attended the unveiling Saturday of the nation's first memorial dedicated solely to the black soldiers and sailors who fought for the Union cause in the Civil War.

The 11-foot, $2.6 million statue honors the more than 208,000 African-Americans who fought for the Northern states, and the white officers who commanded their units. It is one of the few monuments in the nation marking black military achievements.

The statue is titled "Spirit of Freedom" and features several black figures outfitted for battle on land and at sea.

"The African-American soldiers who served in the Union Army fought not only for the preservation of the Union but for their own freedom from slavery," Army Lt. Gen. Joe Ballard, the keynote speaker, said. "Perhaps more than any other men, these soldiers knew the value of freedom."

According to Ballard, 10 percent of the Union's fighters were black and one-third of them died in service. But, despite their contributions, the war veterans struggled for recognition, once the Confederacy surrendered.

Black veterans were not allowed to march in the Union's victory parade in Washington. And in the 1880s, Congress rebuffed efforts by black veteran George Washington Williams to construct a memorial near Howard University.

'The black presence has been invisible'

Hundreds of the soldiers' descendants attended the ceremony, braving sweltering heat. Russell Adams, a historian at Howard University, said the memorial will raise people's consciousness about the fighting role of black soldiers.

"The American South is loaded with Confederate statues; the North is too," he said. "But the black presence has been invisible in statuary form."

The monument is located in the northwest district of Washington, at Vermont Avenue and U Street, in the predominantly black Shaw neighborhood. The neighborhood is named after Col. Robert Shaw, who commanded the 54th Massachusetts in the war.

African-American Civil War reenactors participated in the ceremonies. One said he had been waiting a long time for the ceremony that made him "feel so proud."

Memorial a long time coming

Historians say the South's Confederate soldiers, enraged by the Emancipation Proclamation that ended slavery, were less likely to take black troops alive, killing many who were wounded or trying to surrender.

The black soldiers also faced rampant discrimination in the Union ranks.

The memorial, too, has suffered from repeated delays and budget shortfalls. As a final blow, Saturday's unveiling did not include the full memorial.

Etchings of the names of the 208,943 black soldiers and sailors and their white commanders -- part of architect Ed Hamilton's design -- are not expected to be completed until Veteran's Day. The names will be engraved on metal plaques mounted on black, polished granite walls.

Along with the statue, the memorial includes a nearby museum with displays on the slave trade, abolition and -- most prominently -- black achievements in the Civil War. In the gallery, computer databases allow guests to trace the military backgrounds of their descendants.

"There's a definite record of this now for African-American history," said Vera D. Fuselier, of Pontiac, Michigan, who recently found out that her great-grandfather fought in the Civil War. "Now we need to put that into American history."

Reporter Louise Schiavone and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Related stories:
Latest Headlines

Today on CNN

Related sites:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

External sites are not
endorsed by CNN Interactive.

SEARCH CNN.com
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

  
 

Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.