May 28 – The 54th Infantry

GabeAmerican History(BR), Bell Ringers

On May 28, 1863, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry departed for combat.

The 54th was the first African-American regiment created after Abraham Lincoln authorized the recruitment of free blacks and former slaves into the military.

The regiment performed heroically, in the frontal assault of Fort Wagner in 1863, took 40 percent casualties, an event immortalized in the film, Glory.

  1. Why do you think African-Americans were originally not allowed to serve in the army?
  2. Thinking about the excerpt in the clip, how important do you think it was for African-Americans, that they could fight – and die – to eliminate slavery? What difference did it make?
  3. The military has been the institution often called upon to lead the way in integrating outsiders into the country – whether it be former slaves or immigrants. Why do you think this is? Do you think it is the best institution for this task?

Image Citation:

18 May, 2018, Morgan Freeman in Glory, Dec. 15, 1989, [Digital photograph].  Retrieved from <>.