The African American Civil War Memorial, unveiled in 1998 and designed by architects Devrouax and Purnell, is located just across the museum, at the corner of 10th and U Streets and Vermont Ave.” The Spirit of Freedom sculpture”, bronze statue designed by Louisville sculptor Ed Hamilton, stands ten feet tall and features uniformed black soldiers and a sailor. Around the sculpture there is the Wall of Honor, a memorial, listing the names of 209,145 African-American servicemen that fought for the Union in the American Civil War. The memorial was transferred to the National Park Service on October 27, 2004 and is now maintained by the National Mall and Memorial Parks office.
A graduated college student, Frank Smith, an African American had a strong passion for bringing acknowledgement to the “underdogs” from various communities during his DC council title. Such as in recognizing African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War. Smith was not aware of the history of colored troops during the Civil War fighting against the South until he met a grandson of a former Union soldier. During his college career, Smith ran into this individual that showed the soldier’s belongings such as a uniform and rifle. This sparked an idea for Smith that made the African American Civil War Memorial today.
The memorial does not just demonstrate the courageous soldiers but solely focuses African American soldiers that were once slaves. President Lincoln knew if black soldiers were not allowed to serve, the Union would be destroyed by the South. The United States Colored Troops regiments had over 200,000 African-American soldiers who joined from slave free states and also slave states. However, for the numbers to increase, Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation. This order freed slaves from ten states which most then joined the force of the Union. During the Civil War and before black troops served, the Union was on the brim of losing the war. Smith’s purpose was to broadcast this part of history that was changed by former slaves. Not only does Smith’s intentions are to share these stories but to also encourage school-aged children to go to historical museums to expand their knowledge on history that changed The United States. Smith believes children should know that due to President Lincoln’s permission on allowing slaves to join the colored troops regiments, slavery was ended, and the Union won against the South. Frank Smith is on a current pursuit to expand the museum by adding to the museum that has permanently taken over an abandoned spot, Grimke School in order to bring life to the community.