The memorial, seven years in the planning, is the first in the country to honor all the African American Union troops and their white officers.
For most of the time since the war ended in 1865, the black contribution to the North's victory was forgotten or ignored. After the Confederate surrender at Appomatox, Gen. William T. Sherman organized a two-day victory parade of more than 200,000 troops through Washington, and not a single black regiment was invited to participate. A bill written two years after the war by a U.S. Colored Troops veteran would have built a memorial, but it was passed by the Senate only to fail in the House.
The memorial is part of a new recognition of the role played by African Americans, both freed men and slaves, who volunteered for service. The statue, named "The Spirit of Freedom," was designed by sculptor Ed Hamilton, of Louisville. The semicircular work depicts soldiers from various armed forces on the outer side and a supportive family as the inner circle.
More than 200,000 black Americans fought in the Civil War, a conflict in which they had more than a little stake. This recently completed memorial, in Northwest Washington's Shaw neighborhood, recognizes their contributions. The centerpiece is "Spirit of Freedom," Ed Hamilton's impressive nine-foot sculpture of African American Union troops. Granite walls around a landscaped plaza bear the names of 208,943 black soldiers and their white officers.
-- by John Kelly and Craig Stoltz