Remembering the 54th Massachusetts
Yesterday felt like a marathon. I left Charlottesville at 7am for Washington, D.C. to interview three members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Co. B) along with the Director of the African-American Civil War Memorial Foundation and Museum. The three gentlemen in the picture are all founding members of the reenacting unit, two of whom appeared in the movie Glory [left to right Jerry Brown, Ben Hawley, and Mel Reid]. We talked for about 2 1/2 hours and probably could have continued for another couple of hours. I learned a great deal about their experiences as black Civil War reenactors along with the challenges involved and their commitment to correcting/challenging the historical record and our collective memory. My interview with museum director Frank Smith, Jr. took me through the rest of the day and before I could look up it was 4pm. Luckily my wife sent me off with a muffin as that was the only thing I had eaten until dinner at 5:30pm in Bethesda. It was a long and draining day, but the drive home gave me plenty of time to process much of what I heard.
I have a great deal of transcribing to do today. Tomorrow it’s back down to Petersburg to interview Chris Calkins along with a few other employees of the Petersburg National Battlefield Park.