UPDATED: 3:00 p.m. ET, May 28, 2021
With Memorial Day upon us, there may not be any better time to salute the memorials and monuments that were erected across the nation to specifically commemorate the contributions of Black troops that served in the American military.
On Friday, a memorial to one of the most renowned Black troops in American history was put back on public display following a multi-million dollar renovation that was completed just in time for this year’s Memorial Day.
The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment — which movie fans may remember was immortalized on the big screen in the Academy Award-nominated film, “Glory,” starring Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman — can now be appreciated in person with visits to the Boston Common public park in Boston.
The monument serves as a memorial to the nation’s first Black military unit to fight in the Civil War as well as their leader, Col. Robert Gould Shaw. The 54th was praised for a doomed charge in South Carolina in 1863. Sergeant William Harvey Carney of the 54th was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Fort Wagner.
Boston is a fitting place for a memorial to Black people who fought for America, what with Crispus Attucks, a hero of the American Revolution, becoming the first person killed in the Boston Massacre. While Attucks, an escaped slave, was not a soldier enlisted in the armed forces, he has always been remembered as an American hero for sacrificing his life in rebellion against the British occupation.
Other notable Black troops in the American military include the 369th Infantry (formerly the 15th Regiment New York Guard). Also known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” the 369th was among the first regiments dispatched to France. The all-Black squad was also among the most highly decorated by France for its bravery.
Decades later, after President Joe Biden nominated a decorated war veteran to lead the Pentagon, Lloyd Austin has become the first Black Secretary of Defense, underscoring the importance of and achievements from Black servicemembers.
On this Memorial Day, take a moment to reflect on some of the other monuments erected in honor of their selfless sacrifice and service to the United States.