The Pennsylvania Grand Review Reenactment 2010
At the end of the Civil War, the Federal army held a Grand Review of its troops in Washington DC to celebrate the nation's hard fought victory over the Confederacy. However, the U.S. War Department did not invite black regiments or soldiers to participate, a painful insult to the nearly 209,000 African American soldiers and sailors' who fought and died for the Union. A dedicated group of civilians, mostly women, organized an alternative victory parade for the nation's United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T.). The Pennsylvania Grand Review took place Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the state capital, on Tuesday, November 14, 1865.
Seeking to benefit from the publicity and tourism that it will generate, states are feverishly planning celebrations for the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War in 2011. Sadly, once again, few of these celebrations are paying homage the sacrifices of men of color, for freedom. Few seek to engage the African-American community. You will most likely find more effort directed in the proliferation of Confederate revisionism, perpetrating the "myth" of thousands of black Confederate 'soldiers'.
This is not surprising, nor unexpected. Since between the1870's and the 1930's, when a profusion of commemorative events and memorial construction took place, there are very few visible monuments or public acknowledgments of our freedom fighters. In 1913, tens of thousands of Union and Confederate veterans attended the landmark 50th Anniversary commemoration, while apparently no black soldiers, marginalized by segregation, attended. Woodrow Wilson (a southerner) and other speakers lauded the bravery of soldiers of both sides, without mentioning the contribution. of the U.S.C.T. At the end of the day, it was about Northern-Southern bonding, without the unpleasant reminder of War's primary cause of division, slavery. Out of sight, out of mind. This was the attitude of the 1957 Centennial Planning Commission for the 1961-1965 celebrations. It was primarily to be a white men's event. Held during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, state centennial organizers received unexpected push back from civil rights leaders, who saw the political danger in not countering the myths of the would be Confederate revisionist framing history to serve the segregationists' states rights agenda.
For decades, activists, educators, descendants, and people of conscience have struggled to preserve a counter-memory to bear witness to this history. To this date, the most prominent symbols are the monument to Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts immortalized in 'Glory' (1989), and the only national monument, the Spirit of Freedom Statue, in Washington, D.C.
Fortunately, a coalition of state agencies and non-profit organizations are taking the initiative to tell compelling story of the U.S.C.T. with a series of activities culminating in the reenactment of the Pennsylvania Grand Review November 6, 2010. This is the first event of a build up to Jubilee, the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the final Emancipation Proclamation and the formation of the United States Colored Troops in 2013. Hundreds of U.S.C.T. reenactors, members of living history and U.S.C.T. descendants groups from around the country will participate in reenacting this historic event.
If you can, come out and support the troops in paying homage that is long overdue to the memory of True Freedom Fighters.
Cpl Leon Brooks,
6th Regiment Infantry U.S.Colored Troops