A Brave Black Regiment: The 54th Massachusetts

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S.; let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, and there is no power on the earth or under the earth which can deny that he has earned the right of citizenship in the United States.”

- Frederick Douglass, “Address for the Promotion of Colored Enlistments, delivered at a mass meeting in Philadelphia, July 6, 1863.”

Following the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln called for the raising of Black regiments. Massachusetts Governor John Andrew quickly answered Lincoln's call and began forming the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, one of the first Black regiments to fight in the Civil War. Black men from across the city, state, country, and even other nations, traveled to Boston to join this historic regiment, some of them responding to recruitment efforts of such luminaries as Frederick Douglass. Through their heroic, yet tragic, assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina in July 1863, the 54th helped inspire the enlistment of more than 180,000 Black men…a boost in morale and manpower that Lincoln recognized as essential to the victory of the United States and the destruction of slavery throughout the country.

Explore and discover the soldiers and stories of this Brave Black Regiment.

Period poster with title "TO COLORED MEN!" to recruit men to the 54th Massachusetts
Faces of the 54th: Soldiers and Officers

Search through our online database to learn about the men who served with the 54th Regiment.

Friends of the Public Garden - Shaw 54th Ceremony
Witness to History: The 54th Memorial

Explore the history, legacy, and relevance of the 54th Regiment and the Memorial that honors its service and sacrifice in our ongoing story.

Close-up of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial, focusing on the soldiers.
MA 54th Memorial & Underground Railroad

Explore the connections between the the Massachusetts 54th Regiment and the Underground Railroad.

The Robert Gould Shaw 54th Massachusetts Memorial
The Ongoing March

Learn about commemoration and activism at the Robert Gould Shaw/54th Regiment Memorial.





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    Last updated: January 9, 2023

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    Boston African American National Historical Site

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