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54th Massachusetts

54th Massachusetts May 28, 2008


Every time I go up to the Unitarian Universalist Association denominational headquarters at 25 Beacon Street on Beacon Hill in Boston, I stop and stare at the monument to the men of the 54th Massachusetts. They were the first black regiment sent into battle in the Civil War. They knew the war was not about state’s rights. Or, rather about only one terrible, sinful right.

In seven weeks at an assault on Fort Wagner seventy-four men including their commanding officer the young colonel Robert Gould Shaw would die. Here men of African descent demonstrated before the world their willingness to fight, and if need be, to die for their freedom in this war. Somehow that a man of European descent, informed in part by his Unitarian faith, died with them, and shared their common grave, continues to move my heart in deep and unfathomable ways…

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