In the Shadows of American History





The Descendants Jubilee Project is an endeavor to recognize and honor the memory of the men and women of color who fought as soldiers for the coming of Jubilee during the American Civil War and then left the places of their enslavement to go west. Many black men rode as cavalrymen during the Civil War and helped the Union Army to victory over their past slavemasters. Afterwards, they went on to help tame the frontier west and build a place for themselves and their descendants. They are the shadow warriors of American history. They are buried in unknown cemeteries and in places some of which are known but unattended. Others are buried in unknown burial places, waiting to be rediscovered. It is incumbent upon us to research and study our own history so that others do not continue speaking for us.

Joe Certaine (Descendant of Sgt. Robert Certain)

Joe Certaine is a descendant of Sgt. Robert Certain, 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry (33rd USCT) who was courts martialed and sentenced to death by hanging for his role in the pay mutiny. His ancestors’ names are inscribed on the African American Civil War Memorial located at Vermont Avenue and U Street NW in Washington D. C. The monument is a tribute to the black soldiers and sailors who fought against slavery and helped the Union win the American Civil War.

Black soldiers were unfairly being paid less than white soldiers in the Union Army and also being charged for their uniforms during the Civil War. Many units refused to be paid less than white soldiers of the same rank and would not accept any pay until the matter was rectified. Many men were punished and one was actually executed during this military protest for equal treatment.  Robert Certain’s sentence was eventually rescinded and the U.S. Congress finally corrected the problem.  He lived to fight for and witness the coming of Jubilee.  

 Another ancestor, Jorden Certain (Robert’s brother) served in the 35th USCT of North Carolina during the Civil War.  Joe was the founding national president of the United States Colored Troops Living History Association,   an umbrella organization of historians, genealogists, researchers, living historians and re-enactors dedicated to the preservation of the history and legacy of the black soldiers of the American Civil War, the United States Colored Troops.

He is also a Non-Commissioned Officer reenactor in the 3rd United States Colored Cavalry and portrays Sergeant Major George  Goldsby of the 10th Cavalry, Buffalo Soldiers. Joe also produces and presents black historical characters featuring; Isaiah Dorman; Charles Glass; Isom Dart and George Goldsby – all are historic Black characters from the 19th century, frontier West.

Joe has long been a proponent of the inclusion of the United States Colored Troops in stories and historical presentations of the American Civil War. He has portrayed a mounted cavalry re-enactor of the United States Colored Cavalry as well as the Buffalo Soldiers for many years.  He is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

He has had two short stories published in booklet by Blue Horse Productions of Tucson, Arizona; “As the Crow Flies”, a story about his time spent on the Crow Indian Reservation in Southeastern Montana and “A History of the Buffalo Soldiers” a description of the early years of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, Black veterans of the American Civil War known as Buffalo Soldiers, who became the first Black professional soldiers on the western frontier.

Joe Certaine is the historian and technical advisor for “The Invisible Men of Honor, The Legend of the Buffalo Soldiers” a television documentary about the Buffalo Soldiers, sponsored by Wal-Mart and produced by VisionQuest National Ltd. He has been featured on TV-1 and on the History Channel as well as on local television and in news reports. He is also involved as a consultant for a feature film production about the Exodusters, former slaves who went west to build settlements in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma after the Civil War.  Certaine is also a special adviser to the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission for  PA Civil War-150,  Pennsylvania’s Sesquicentennial Observance of the American Civil War.

Joe has ridden with American Indian re-enactors of the warrior societies of the Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, Comanche and Apache. He has earned his warrior name (Bishtewehsa-First Buffalo)  from a Sundance Chief of the Crow Nation.

Certaine has visited most of the remaining cavalry posts and many of the old frontier towns that marked the passing of the western frontier. While researching the fate of Isaiah Dorman, the only black man at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Joe retraced  on horseback, a tactical study of  the the exact  route taken by George Custer,  as he and the 7th Cavalry rode to contain the Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho warriors in southeastern Montana during June of 1876.  He has frequently presented the study results during lectures and symposia.

During his long tenure as an amateur historian, Joe has presented the Shadow Warriors program, appearing as different black historical characters of the Frontier West and as a black cavalryman of the American Civil War.  Our committment to American history includes researching and producing Living History presentations and historical interpretation of the Western Frontier of the 19th century. To learn more, contact us.

He tells the stories never heard by young people of color from urban environments. Stories that can only be found by reading the works of independent historians and researchers or by conducting first hand research in the National Archives, the Library of Congress or in the newspaper accounts and county records of states that made up the frontier west. 

Joe has planned and participated in historic cavalry events all over the western United States. He is often called upon to assist in the planning of  historically accurate, period authentic events with mounted participants.  As an expert on the contributions of Black-Americans to the military history of the United States and the taming of the western frontier, Joe is frequently featured as a guest speaker and presenter at conferences and symposia.  His favorite audience is students and his favroite venue is any school auditorium. Yours can be too. Contact us.

Use the contact form below, if you would like to schedule an appearance by one of the characters from the Shadow Warriors, living history program.


The United States Colored Troops of the American Civil War, like their volunteer predecessors in the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War, fought in the best interests of their people for the abolition of slavery and recognition of their status as equal to any other man. The story of the American Civil War must be told in a manner that accurately represents the efforts of the Black Americans to fight for their freedom from enslavement, and in the process, helped save the Union of the United States of America.

Buffalo Soldiers (update)

“Buffalo Soldiers” made significant and lasting contribution to the settlement of the desolate and dangerous American West. While black Americans made up approximately 10 percent of the Army’s enlisted corps, 1 in 5 soldiers (20%) serving in the West was black. Buffalo Soldiers protected wagon trains, railroad construction crews, ranches and settlements from Indian attacks; mapped water holes; built roads and erected telegraph lines; and carried the mail longer than the fabled Pony Express, they also escorted stage coaches and survey parties.  They were proud warriors in the saddle and the best special forces of their time. They fought for the opportunity to be viewed and accepted as any other American. No hardship or sacrifice could turn them from their quest for recognition and acceptance  as United States fighting men.

The Frontier West

How often have you wanted to ride your horse in a parade portraying a black character from the Frontier West?  There are many historical interpretations to consider. They include Lawmen, Drovers, Scouts, Outlaws, Merchants, Soldiers and Settlers.

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