Agreement signed for 8,000 names of US Colored Troops to be placed on Mississippi monument dedicated to Civil War African Americans

Published 3:35 pm Friday, May 5, 2023

Dr. Frank Smith, founding director of the African American Civil War Museum, recently visited Natchez to show his support for the Natchez U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) monument, which will be called, the Natchez African American Civil War Memorial.

On Tuesday, May 2, Smith and Mayor Dan Gibson signed an agreement for the 8,000 names the Museum provided of the USCT based at Fort McPherson. These names will be listed on the proposed monument.

On Wednesday, May 3, Smith and his team from Washington, D.C., met with representatives of the Natchez National Historical Park to discuss a grant approved for the creation of a virtual USCT trail. “Inspired by the freedom trail, the USCT trail would be a series of virtual markers across the country at National Park Service sites,” according to Dr. Dawn Chitty, the Museum’s director of education.

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“We were very much impressed with all of the work that the city has done to organize and care for this great new memorial,” said Smith. “We are happy to play a role in supplying you with the names in the six regiments that were based at Fort McPherson. These soldiers helped to save the nation.”

Gibson welcomed Smith and his team with warm greetings. He said it was a privilege to meet with them.

“We were so very honored to have Dr. Smith and his delegation In Natchez,” Gibson said. “His life story, from civil rights activist to four-term DC Councilman is historic in and of itself. And the fact that he is the founding director of the National African American Civil War Museum and creator of the National U.S. Colored Troops Monument speaks volumes of his commitment to telling ‘all of the story’ of American history.”

Smith’s two-day visit began on Tuesday with a tour of Natchez that was led by Gibson, and Robert Pernell, who chairs the Natchez U.S. Colored Troops Monument Committee. This was followed by a 4 p.m. meeting in the Council Chambers, where members of the USCT Committee gave presentations on the proposed monument. Committee members included Lance Harris, who chairs the Monument Design Subcommittee; Devin Heath, who chairs the Site Design Subcommittee; Deborah Fountain, who chairs the History and Research Subcommittee; and Carter Burns, co-chairman of the USCT Committee.

On Wednesday, Smith and his team joined Ser Seshsh Ab Heter-Clifford M. Boxley for a tour of the Forks of the Road, according to Chitty. This was followed by a meeting with Park Historian Jeff Mansell, and Chief of Interpretation, Dr. David Slay at Natchez National Historical Park. The day ended with a tour of the Natchez National Cemetery to view the grave of Buck Murphy, a USCT soldier.

In addition to Chitty, Smith’s delegation included Edwin Gasaway, operations manager; Nia Crawford, intern – community volunteer advocate for the National Park Service; Marquett Milton, historical interpreter; and Robert Walker, former mayor of Vicksburg.

Gibson said the City of Natchez is proud to “partner with Dr. Smith and his team.” He noted that “having access to the over 8000 names of those who served our country in Natchez will be an added bonus to our soon-to-be developed monument on the northern Bluff.”

The agreement signed by Gibson and Smith was officially announced by Fountain in November 2021.

Pernell said the visit by Smith was both timely and important. “Right now we’re working on the design of the monument, and we’re engaged in fundraising,” he said. “The partnership with Dr. Smith is significant in that it provides us with an ally in D.C. who has the knowledge and many important resources related to our work.”

Pernell said the USCT Committee urgently needs donations from individuals, institutions, and businesses in order to move forward to the next phase of the project. “I sincerely believe that when this monument is completed, people will be astounded, grateful, and deeply moved. Some, I’m sure, will be pleasantly surprised by its impact and how it will inspire people for generations to come.”