{This is the first post in my year-long D.C. Museums Tour during my Gap Year before I start law school at the age of 40. THIS.}

I left this morning ready to embark on my year-long quest to visit every single museum in D.C., and for my first stop, I chose the African American Civil War Museum. I wanted to start this tour of museums with a history museum, but one that I hadn’t visited before and one that would tell me something I didn’t know.

And from the moment I stepped off the Metro escalator at U Street and faced the African American Civil War Memorial in front of me, I realized how much I never knew. Why? Because history as it’s written and taught doesn’t teach us the whole truth, or oftentimes any of it at all. And it made me mad. Immediately.Because if you read the inscription at the base of the statue, you’ll see that 209,145 African Americans fought in the Civil War, and I bet you never knew that. I didn’t.

See this wall? It’s like the Vietnam Memorial. But smaller. And not on the National Mall. And on it are the names of every single one of those soldiers who fought for the Union. Literally, they saved our nation. And no one told us that in history class.

You’ll have to watch my post-visit response video (scroll to the bottom of this post) to learn more about all the ways we’ve been lied to when it comes to African Americans, Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Civil War (spoiler alert: I’m mad) and what that means for us Americans here in 2017, but here are some highlights:

  • 10% of the Northern Army were of African descent
  • 25% of the Navy was black
  • 25 Black soldiers received the Congressional Medal of Honor
  • George Washington signed a law forbidding blacks from enlisting, even though they actually accompanied him across the dang Delaware. #earlywhiteprivilege
  • Abraham Lincoln never mentioned a moral obligation to free slaves in any of his drafts or discussions of the Emancipation Proclamation. He insisted on “military necessity” as the compelling reason for the freeing of slaves. In other words, freed slaves = more soldiers in the Union Army = saved Union.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves in the entire nation. Only slaves in the 10 rebel slave states were freed (and those states ignored the proclamation). The EP did not apply to the five additional slave states who were NOT part of the rebellion. (Yeah, things we were never told, right?)
  • Because the Union needed more soldiers to win the war, the Union itself would not have been saved without freed slaves. (Hence the need for the Emancipation Proclamation…It’s all coming together now, huh.)
  • At the end of the Civil War, it was the 25th Army Corps—black troops—who captured Richmond. They literally saved the Union and freed themselves. WHAT?!? Yes.
  • Oh, and to put to rest those who claim that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery? Wrong. Their very secession documents clearly delineated that as the reason for leaving the Union. Woops.

And this is just a sampling, you guys. It isn’t a large museum at all, but I spent 2.5 hours in there, reading every word and watching every video. Because SO much was information I was never, ever taught.

Go. Visit this museum. And like the narrator kept repeating in the museum film today, the stories you will learn about are truly the best kept secret in American history. A shamefully kept secret, but the best kept as well.

 

My Post-Visit Response Video.

I might have ranted. I might have preached. I might have been a little mad.

Until next time, friends…

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