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Forward, 54th!


President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, declaring slaves in the South to be free and allowing African Americans to join the Union army. Shortly after this, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first regiments of African American soldiers formed during the Civil War, began recruiting soldiers to enlist. Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was killed, and a third of his men were killed, injured, or captured.

On Memorial Day 1897, Colonel Shaw and his men were honored with sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens's large bronze monument on Boston Common, where it still stands. After finishing the Boston memorial, the artist continued to modify the sculpture's plaster model; this is the work now on view at the National Gallery of Art.

Through interweaving monologues and Civil War–era music, this dramatic interpretation honors the rich stories of the people and events remembered in Augustus Saint-Gaudens's Shaw Memorial. This film is available to be licensed to affiliates.

33 minutes (closed captioned)