It Was A Battle For Their Lives - And Their Freedom

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The Civil War was in full swing by 1863. As the Union and Confederate soldiers fought against and for slavery, respectively, a certain group was clearly missing from these important battles: Black soldiers.

That changed when the Emancipation Proclamation abolished slavery in January 1863 and allowed free Black men to enlist.

About a month later, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry formed.

The turn out for the regiment astonished all. From New York to the South, Canada to the Caribbean, more than 1,000 Black men looking to risk it all in the fight for Black liberation volunteered to be a part of the first ever all-Black infantry.

They showed up - and showed out.

Their first major battle, however, was a huge defeat. Six-hundred men stormed Fort Wagner in July 1863 only to be met by 1,700 Confederate soldiers. Two hundred and eighty one Union men would die in this conflict.

But the 54th didn’t run in fear. They stood tall and charged forward.

Despite the loss, the fort was weakened and soon after abandoned by the Confederacy. Thanks to the 54th.

In the face of doubt and detractors, these Black soldiers proved, through sheer will and commitment to Black liberation, the power and effectiveness of Black people.

The 54th Massachusetts Infantry led to many more Black regiments, and today is forever memorialized in such films as “Glory” and in the fabric of the United States of America.

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