Norman Hill, member, Tennessee Historical Commission, Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission
Source: Screenshot from Nashville Cemetery USCT Sculpture YouTube video from the Veterans Health Administration
A hot topic regarding the Civil War Sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) is the interest, or perceived lack thereof, of African Americans in the War and related commemoration activities and events. A discussion of African American attitudes toward the war is here.
An essay on the subject is provided by Norman Hill, who is a member of the Tennessee Historical Commission, the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission, and is a United States Colored Troops re-enactor. Hill wrote this after visiting historic sites in Tennessee with content related to African Americans in the Civil War. I found this piece interesting and thought-provoking.
I want to give thanks to the people at the Eagle News newspaper for granting permission to re-print this piece:
I am traveling today with the Historic Commission, visited the 13th US Colored Troops (USCT) exhibit at the Clement museum in Dickson, Tennessee, and the “Promised Land settlement” in Dickson, Tennessee.
I participate as a member of the Historic Commission of the State of Tennessee consisting of gubernatorial appointees from all the Grand Divisions.
Even as we visited the historic African American settlements, we were distracted by rebel flags and auto horns sounding “Dixie.” The implications were quite clear that the old guard is not going away.
Many black and white historians agree that it is our challenge to fill the void of our own silence, recognize the legacy we have inherited. We should be cautious not to spend our valuable time and resources counteracting every Rebel flag, or worse to hide away and hope that we are not noticed. Visual opposition is necessary, but it must not be our only course of opposition.
It is time to put aside the fear of our past, and face the promise of our future. We must celebrate and promote the opening of the Bradley Museum because it is our legacy. We must also the “Promised Land Settlement” in Dickson County. Their representative visited and supported our Bradley Festival and we should return and support their efforts.
Monuments and memorials such as Bradley Museum, Promised Land, and Freedom Hill in Gallatin are a part of an even larger renaissance of Black culture and History that has included the USCT Museum in Washington, DC, and the recent CBS Broadcast “Who do you think you are” featuring Vanessa Williams’ family history and revealing a USCT relative, as well as one of the first Black members of the Tennessee Legislature.
All over the Middle East, people are pushing back years of fear and suppression to express their desire for freedom. We are not immune from the implications and we must participate in our own re-awakening.
We are fortunate to be alive to witness and participate in the revival of our own Heritage and Pride.