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The United States War Department issued General Order 143 on May 22, 1863, creating the United States Colored Troops(USCT). By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10 percent of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army, and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Yet, only one percent of the Northern population was African American. Clearly over represented in the military, African Americans played a decisive role in the Civil War. Though discriminated against in pay and position, these men proved their valor throughout their service and were the front line forces in the final surrender of the Confederate capital.
As Artist In Residence at the Hudson River Museum during their Red Grooms and Civil War exhibits, I focused on the Civil War contributions of the Hills Community, sharing a rare glimpse into the history of a now extinct African American village in Westchester, NY, at its most robust in the 1860s. When African American men were asked to fight in the Civil War, 36 of the 52 adult men of the Hills community, nearly 70%, joined the United States Colored Troops union forces, including men in their 40s and 50s! Theirs was a holy war, a war for freedom and dignity.
For a detailed look at our curriculum please click on Civil War Series: The Life and Times of the Hills Community
We thank Red Grooms and the Hudson River Museum for the unique opportunity to share the story of these local African American Civil War heroes through docu-dramas (created and performed with my art partner, Keith Johnston) via storytelling and song at 6 Sunday Gallery family-friendly shows, and an Arts In the Afternoon Show for Seniors. We also conducted teachers professional development workshops, led docent and junior docent training workshops and held workshops for the local elementary school children. We are proud to be part of the museum’s Award for Excellence in Civil War Focused Public Programs from the Greater Hudson Heritage Network.
We applaud Dr. Edythe Ann Quinn for her meticulous scholarship about the Hills community. For further research: Quinn, Edythe Ann. Freedom Journey: Black Civil War Soldiers and the Hills Community, Westchester County, NY. Albany: SUNY Press, 2015