Colored Troops’ descendants sought for monument ceremony

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 4, 2004

[2/4/04]People whose ancestors were U.S. Colored Troops are being sought for recognition during events surrounding the unveiling of the Mississippi African-American Monument at Vicksburg National Military Park.

Anyone who is descended from one of the soldiers is asked to contact the Vicksburg African-American Monument Committee by Tuesday to be recognized during the Feb. 13-14 activities, chairman Robert M. Walker said.

The committee may be reached at usctmonument@yahoo.co.in or by calling 601-979-5804 during days or 601-636-6008 evenings or weekends.

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Events begin with a 6 p.m. forum Feb. 13 at Bethel A.M.E. Church, 805 Monroe St. They continue the next day with a 10:30 a.m. unveiling and dedication ceremony and a 12:30 p.m.-2 p.m. reception at the Vicksburg Convention Center, 1600 Mulberry St.

All events are free and open to the public.

Participants in the panel discussion will include two history professors, Walker, of Jackson State University, and Bettye Gardner, who is from Vicksburg and teaches at Coppin State University in Baltimore, Md.; Walter Hill of the National Archives in Washington, D.C.; Bill Gwaltney of the National Park Service; and the director of the Washington, D.C., African-American Civil War Monument and Museum, Frank Smith, Gardner said.

“I imagine that the public in general probably knows very little about” black Mississippians’ involvement in the Civil War, Gardner said. The forum is designed to place that involvement in historical context, she said.

“Two or three of them will talk about the decision to employ blacks during the Civil War, after quite a bit of debate and delay and so forth,” she said of the panelists.

The form will be titled “U.S. Colored Troops: Fighting for Freedom,” Gardner added.

Walker, a former mayor of Vicksburg, began the monument project in 1988, a committee brochure says.

The sculptor of the monument is Dr. Kim Sessums of Brookhaven, who was chosen from applicants who submitted proposals for its design.

“Approximately 20,000 Mississippians served with various units of the USCT, comprising 10 percent of the total number of African-Americans serving with the Union armies,” Walker said.