Sergeant Carney Monument, Norfolk, Virginia, 2004


William Earle Williams, Sergeant Carney Monument, Norfolk, Virginia, 2004, 2004, gelatin silver print, 9 1/2 × 7 1/2 in. (24.1 × 19.1 cm). National Gallery of Art, Charina Endowment Fund

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When William H. Carney died in 1908 and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery at New Bedford, Massachusetts, the Medal of Honor was engraved on his tombstone. That same year, his birth city of Norfolk acknowledged Carney’s legacy by starting construction on a memorial to African American veterans of the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. A uniformed Sergeant Carney stands atop the granite column clasping a rifle whose vertical lines echo the officer’s own proud stance. At the base of the monument white marble tombstones bear the names of black soldiers and sailors who served in these wars. Not completed until 1920, the monument stands in West Point Cemetery, the historically black section of a once-segregated burial ground.

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