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posted by Joseph Certaine on December 17th, 2010 at 8:45 AM

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Here we are on the eve of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Everything is being readied for
what promises to be an exciting and illuminating Civil War Sesquicentennial Observance. Rather than establishing a national commission, it seems that the states or rather organizations within most of the states, have shouldered the responsibility of this national commemoration.
Most organizations are being careful not to raise the issue of slavery or the role of black Americans in the abolitionist and anti-slavery movements. Neither will they acknowledge the use of black men under arms as a cause of the Union victory. This area of the Sesquicentennial Observance is left to the black re-enactors and living historians who comprise the community of support for the United States Colored Troops. The USCT Sesquicentennial Commemoration must include recognition of all the events that led to black men donning the uniform of the United States Army and Navy in their fight against slavery.
We cannot ignore the organized uprisings of enslaved people against their so-called masters. Neither can we shy away from the leadership role taken by the free black community to thwart the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. The acts of resistance and deception required to gain freedom from chattel slavery are a part of our history as black Americans. The American Civil War afforded black Americans the opportunity to participate in the most successful armed struggle, against slavery, the world has ever seen. With the support of the Federal government, black men came by the thousands to be organized and trained into fighting units, in order to march against the institution of chattel slavery that held this nation in its grip.
These black men faced murder by the confederate rebels if they were captured or even worse they were returned to slavery. They were ridiculed and harassed by elements of the same army, whose uniform they proudly wore. Their families suffered in hardship, as the men went to war. In many cases they didn’t have the right equipment, were not paid equally and were given the worst possible jobs when on garrison duty, but still they came. They knew that the fight was about their future. They were joined by black men from Canada and from the Caribbean nations as well as some men from mother Africa herself.
As we begin this four year observance, we must make it clear that we are also recognizing and celebrating the success of the United States Colored Troops in forcing the abolition of chattel slavery, gaining unrestricted US citizenship and gaining the right to vote as free men. It is a worthy commemoration that we embark upon. That’s why we needn’t try to conform to attempts by the majority to make the Sesquicentennial a dispassionate yearly schedule of conferences, symposia and exhibitions. Ours is a true celebration of freedom, attained by blood on the battlefield. There can be no greater celebratory observance.
So, prepare to participate in the first true opportunity we have had in one hundred fifty years to say thank you to the 209,145 men of the United States Colored Troops of the American Civil War. They fought in 339 engagements 39 of which were major battles. Wherever they marched they freed their brethren They established the standards for civil rights and social justice, we continue to strive for today. Huzzah, Huzzah, Huzzah.


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