by Kevin M. Levin
The film based on the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry is streaming on Netflix. Kevin Levin suggests that despite the narrative license taken, the film puts the story of Black freedom fighters and the question of emancipation at the center of the story of the Civil War.
Glenn David Brasher is an instructor of history at the University of Alabama and the author of “The Peninsula Campaign and the Necessity of Emancipation: African Americans and the Fight for Freedom.” “Today we recognize the right of every man … to be a MAN and a citizen,” Gov. John Andrew of Massachusetts proclaimed on May 18, 1863, to a crowd gathered around the 54th Massachusetts, the first African-American regiment raised in the North. They fight “not for themselves alone,” he insisted, but also for their race. Their military service would refute “the foul aspersion that they [are] not men,” proving that African-Americans deserved their nation’s citizenship rights.
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