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The African American Civil War Museum opened to the public in January 1999 to honor the heroic struggle for freedom and civil rights of the Americans of African descent. The museum both highlights and commemorates the role of African Americans in the United States Civil War, particularly those that served in United States Colored Troops (USCT) regiments. The museum collection comprises a wide assortment of photographs, newspaper articles, replicas of period clothing, weaponry, and uniforms. Using photographs, documents, and state of the art audio and visual equipment, the museum helps visitors understand the African American's heroic and largely unknown struggle for freedom.

  • "Spirit of Freedom" bronze statue in the center of memorial, located across from the museum.
  • Reenactors dressed in reproductions of period clothing
  • African American Civil War Museum
  • "Spirit of Freedom" memorial
  • African American Civil War Museum Entrance Gate.
  • Donald Shaffer, After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans. Click the link below for more information about this book, and several others about the African American experience in the Civil War.
  • Museum founder Frank Smith

The museum was founded by Frank Smith who hoped to contextualize the history of black military service and the Emancipation Proclamation. The museum offers exhibits that preserve and share the history of over 208,000 soldiers and sailors who fought for the Union in the Civil War. The museum includes a memorial that depicts black soldiers and sailors and is located directly across from the museum. Among the many services offered at the museum, descendants of members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) may trace their family lineage using the museum's official registry.


The African American Civil War Memorial was unveiled in 1998 and is known as "The Spirit of Freedom." The bronze sculpture was designed by Louisville sculptor Ed Hamilton, and stands ten feet tall. Next to the sculpture is the Wall of Honor which lists names of African Americans who fought for the Union. 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. 

The museum offers historic context that demonstrates the significance of African American military service in the war. President Lincoln believed that black soldiers could turn the tide of the war, not only by serving the Union, but depriving the South of labor and causing disruption to the system of slavery that provided much of the wealth that fueled the Confederacy.

Stuart, Reginald . "Washingtonian." The African American Civil War Museum: Remembering the Forgotten Soldiers August 15th 2011. .

Rai, Ishaan. "African American Civil War Memorial Museum To Be Expanded." The Hoya October 25th 2019. .

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