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.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

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