Black war re-enactors hope to gain members

July 24, 2011 at 12:52 AM

CHARLESTON, S.C., July 24 (UPI) -- African-American Civil War re-enactors are hoping this year's 150th anniversary commemorations will help boost interest in their activities, officials say.

On Monday, 18 people participated in a ceremony to commemorate the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the most celebrated African-American companies to fight in the Civil War, The Washington Post reported.

"If you look, you'll see that most historians now say that if it wasn't for these black soldiers, the North might not have won the war. These guys were freedom fighters. That's what our people should know . . . and that's why we do this," Mel Reid said in explaining why he participates in re-enactments.

The African-American re-enactor community is much smaller than the wider Civil War re-enactment fraternity; in the 1990s at the movement's peak there were fewer than 1,000 black re-enactors, which is a small fraction of today's predominantly white 50,000 re-enactors overall.

However, 150th anniversary events are once again rousing black interest, as increased attention is being paid to the 209,000 African-Americans who officially fought in the war, explained Hari Jones, curator of the African-American Civil War Museum.

"What we're hoping is that the 150-year celebrations will help develop more interest among African-Americans and we see more people join," Jones said.

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