Tell It with Pride: The 54th Massachusetts Regiment and Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Shaw Memorial
This exhibition celebrates Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ magisterial Shaw Memorial (1883–1900), considered by many to be one of the finest examples of 19th-century American sculpture. The monument commemorates the July 18, 1863, storming of Fort Wagner, near Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War battle was waged by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, one of the first African American military units raised in the North. Although the 54th was defeated at Fort Wagner and almost a third of the regiment was killed—including Shaw himself—or wounded, the battle was seen as a turning point in the war: it proved that African Americans’ bravery and dedication to country equaled that of the nation’s most celebrated heroes.
When Saint-Gaudens created the monument, he based his likeness of Shaw on photographs of the colonel, but for his depiction of the other soldiers, he hired African American men to pose in his studio. This exhibition seeks to make real the soldiers of the 54th represented anonymously in the memorial. It brings together vintage photographic portraits of members of the regiment and of the men and women who recruited, nursed, taught, and guided them. It also features important related documents as well as works of art that show how the 54th, its famous assault, and the Shaw Memorial have continued to inspire artists in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Download the digital brochure (PDF, 491MB)