Remembering Hari Jones

Harold “Hari” Jones (1958-2018)

While overseas last week I learned of the untimely passing of Hari Jones. Hari is best known for his work with the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum in Washington, D.C. You have likely seen him on any number of C-SPAN recordings and other videos about the Civil War. He was a tireless advocate of the USCT story and he will be greatly missed.

I first met Hari back in 2009 during the research phase for my book on the history and memory of the battle of the Crater. I interviewed a number of African Americans about what they had learned about the USCT story growing up, including Hari. I fondly remember our walk through the Shaw neighborhood of D.C. where he worked at the time and where he believed the story of the USCT must play a vital role in its revitalization.

That was the thing about Hari. It was never just about history. He constantly returned to the point that for a neighborhood to thrive and maintain a sense of its own identity that it must have an understanding of its past.This approach meant that you never quite knew whether you were going to hear a straightforward lecture about history or something approaching a sermon about the importance and vital role of historical memory.

In 2012 I chaired a panel with Hari at a conference in Gettysburg. Afterwards we walked a bit on the battlefield together. I remember him as an incredibly kind and generous man. We didn’t always agree on how to interpret the Civil War, but I always managed to learn something from considering his unique perspective on the past.

I don’t know whether people realize what a huge loss this is for the public history field in D.C. and within the broader Civil War community. Hari did the tough work of engaging the public around some of the most difficult questions related to the Civil War. His career is a reminder that none of the changes we’ve seen in recent years, related to how the war is commemorated and understood, would be possible without the hard work and sacrifice of individuals like Hari.

Thank you, Hari.

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9 comments… add one
  • Ruth Hodge Aug 26, 2018 @ 15:49

    I had tried to get Hari to speak at my church in Carlisle for our National Black History month celebration, and finally he was able to come this past February, and what a treat. My sympathy to his family, indeed he was a National treasurer and gift from Heaven to all of us.

  • Ruth Hodge Aug 26, 2018 @ 15:45

    d out today of Hari’s passing; I’m still in shock. Only yesterday I had signed my book and packaged it to mail to him on Monday. I met Hari shortly after he came to the African American Civil War Freedom Foundation Museum and would see him in action every time I visited the Museum. I stood beside him when the USCT Statute was dedicated. I also had tried to get him to come to Carlisle to speak for our church’s National AAAAAATNf

  • Sophia Lynn Jul 10, 2018 @ 8:08

    Hari!! So young at heart, so vital, so bold in your ideas, so unstinting in your zeal to communicate a long untold perspective on our shared world of America. You’ve left us too soon, yet on the divine schedule, you must be right on time. What a force of thought and action.

  • Diane Hyra Jul 4, 2018 @ 18:18

    I am grateful to the (formally known as) Civil War Trust for introducing me to Hari and his work and perspectives on the conflict. I am sorry to learn I will no longer have the benefit of his insights.

  • Kathryn M Harris Jul 3, 2018 @ 13:05

    Hello from the Heartland of Central IL…Hari was our very special guest speaker in Springfield when we were commemorating the Civil War during it’s sesquicentennial. His presentation the the role of the USCT was memorable and provided many in attendance with information they had not known before. He will certainly be missed but his legacy will continue….

  • Marilyn Jess Jul 3, 2018 @ 8:52

    I feel so sad I never got to hear Hari Jones speak in person. It was on my wish list, and now his recorded talks will have to suffice. Thank you for this beautiful tribute. Hari’s unique perspective is something we will miss.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Jul 3, 2018 @ 5:53

    I didn’t always agree with Hari either on some things but I appreciate that he so often was able to back up what he said with documentation. Sometimes I heard him say things and I’d be like, “Are you for real?” But then, he was able to provide a source for what he was talking about. I see so many people who just can’t do that.

  • Yulanda Burgess Jul 3, 2018 @ 5:26

    On a Saturday afternoon, I received this phone call from a friend who had to repeat herself a couple of times before I understood what she was telling me. Hari had passed. It is a blow to my heart. I had so many encounters with Hari and was truly looking forward to absorbing his speechifying at the 20th Anniversary of the African American Civil War Memorial. Hari was a warrior and a hero. Kevin, you’ve captured Hari’s presence amongst us eloquently. I am very sad, but at the same time blessed for Hari’s legacy.

    Hari along with Dr. George Smith and Robert Young will be memorialized on July 21, 2018 at 2 pm at the AACWMM. Three wonderful people who actively promoted the USCT legacy are now gone. See

    • Kevin Levin Jul 3, 2018 @ 5:28

      So sorry I am going to miss this by a couple of days. Thanks for sharing, Yulanda.

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