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▣ For history's sake

posted by Joseph Certaine on October 4th, 2010 at 4:28 PM

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Around the country, those of us who portray the United States Colored Troops  are being besieged in different ways. Our units in the states of the old Confederacy are being inundated with messages and queries about why we don"t acknowledge the outrageous myth of the "black confederate soldiers" completely outfitted and ready for armed combat against those devilish northern invaders?

In the Northern States that made up the Union,  we are being inundated with requests to pop up at every little attempt to establish some tourism venue that is absolutely guaranteed to increase revenue for the hospitality industry in the area.  Nobody really seems to be concerned abut the honesty of the effort (Did it happen? When did it happen? Where did it happen? How did it happen and who was involved?).  As long as we can have some black men in uniform portraying the USCT or better yet someone who purports to be an "expert" on all things related to the USCT, we've got ourselves an event.

Within our ranks, we have those who are the enablers.  They don a Civil War uniform and hire themselves out to anyone with folding money  who will pay them to impersonate an expert on USCT history.  Meanwhile, the black community never gets to learn about our heritage or the history of the United States Colored Troops because the enablers have all run off to impress people outside of our community with how knowledgeable they are about those dandy black soldiers. They carefully avoid saying that the USCT was highly motivated to end slavery as an institution.

There are many among us who only put on their USCT uniform if they are going to be paid. They have websites that herald the availability of their vitae along with their fee schedule, travel and accomodation expenses. Meanwhile the children in our neighborhood school have no sense of the role played by their ancestors to become free. Of course, if that neighborhood school has the money, we might be able to fit them into our schedule but only if the temperature is in the seventies with a gentle breeze and lunch is served.

For those of us who are truly serious about the history and legacy of the USCT and the role they played to abolish enslavement as an institution in the United States, we are left to offer opportunities for historically accurate living history presentations.  We must do it regardless of the money available because it is our history, our identity, our sense of who we are that hangs in the balance.  We must do whatever is reasonably possible to teach and share our history as a people in the United States.  The Sesquicentennial offers an opportunity to do exactly that, to teach.  We must counter the myth of the black confederate and we must insist that history not be revised to give credence to the nonsense about the Civil War being about something other than the maintenance and expansion of slavery.

We must learn to resist the temptation to commercialize our hobby and stick to presenting the accurate history for the sake of history.  We do this so that another generation of our countrymen can't say " I didn't know" or "Nobody ever told me or showed me that information"   We as living historians and reenactors must take it upon ourselves to maintain the history and legacy of the United States Colored Troops because it is our history!  The USCT gave us the Buffalo Soldiers; who gave us the Harlem Hell-Fghters; who gave us the Tuskegee Airmen, the Triple Nickels and the Red Ball Express.

We have got to put on our uniforms and teach wherever we are, so that our children's children's children know and understand who they are and how far they've come.  Only then,  will we have reclaimed the pride and dignity won by the blood of  our ancestors on the battlefields of the Civil War.    Then, we can hire ourselves out for money  to the very people who've surpressed our battlefield history so that we can enhance tourism.  First we've got to educate, for the sake of history.   

last edited on October 4th, 2010 at 4:40 PM


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