“with the heart of lions”: Black Soldiers, the Civil War, and Monuments

Renée Ater, Ph.D.
Public Scholar/Historian
Associate Professor Emerita, University of Maryland

Last night, over 150 Friends joined us for the 2019 Members Reception. Board Chair Leslie Adam and Executive Director Liz Vizza welcomed the crowd and thanked them for their support for our beautiful and historic greenspaces.

Leslie outlined the organization’s achievements in advocacy through this year, including the successful, community-led push for the Boston Freedom Rally to become a one-day event. Liz drew attention to the unseen work the Friends perform, highlighting the important tree, turf and soil care. She also looked to the future, sharing information about the Boston Common Master Plan, and the Shaw 54th Memorial Restoration project set to begin in the spring of 2020.

This year’s featured speaker, Dr. Renée Ater, gave an informative presentation on late-20th-century monuments to the United States Colored Troops. Highlighting two specific monuments, one in Washington DC and the other at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, she discussed how black soldiers from the Civil War are represented in these works of art. Ater spoke about the physical and artistic aspects of the monuments, using them to amplify the sociopolitical message these monuments hold. She emphasized that while many monuments exist for the Civil War, there are very few for United States Colored Troops and their role in the Union victory. Ater suggested the audience to take a critical look at monuments to men of color, referencing the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial on Boston Common as an important example to consider. A lively question and answer session followed.

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