As the nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, July 4, 2020, it is worth noting that “In every war fought by or within the United States, African-Americans participated.” Whether freemen or enslaved, Americans of African descent have served and made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms and way of life that we enjoy today. With the shot heard round the world, Crispus Attucks, an African American by modern standards, was the first person killed in the Boston Massacre and thus the first American killed in the American Revolution.
Whether Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry Regiment or Harlem Hellfighters, the 369th Infantry Regiment, or the famed Tuskegee Airmen, some of whom trained at Lane College; from the first black military officer, Second Lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper to General Colin Powell, the first black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; from Cathay Williams, the first African American female enlisted in the United States Regular Army under the false name of "William Cathay" in 1866 to Admiral Michelle Janine Howard, the first woman and African American woman to become a U.S. Navy four-star admiral; African Americans have served patriotically with honor and distinction.
This season, I am especially mindful of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the Civil War regiment depicted in the movie, Glory. Approximately 1,007 black soldiers and 37 white officers, heading south “in spite of an announcement by the Confederate Congress that every captured black soldier would be sold into slavery and every white officer in command of black troops would be executed.” The governor of Massachusetts described them as “full of hope and glory.” Facing uncertainty, death sentence, threats, and discrimination, the 54th marched on full of hope and glory. Suffering great loss in the Battle of Fort Wagner in the summer 1863, yet full of hope and glory, history records “the 54th Massachusetts returned to Boston in September 1865” victorious after the war ended.
Here’s my 2020 celebration, full of hope and glory, they had an early set back but won the war. I am hopeful today. As was with the 54th infantry regiment, we will march on to victory facing grave challenges, viral and racial pandemics, and uncertain times “full of hope and glory”.
In my faith tradition, I praise God that “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness.... On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
God bless you, your family, Lane College, our city, county, state and country!