During the years leading up to battle in 1863, approximately 185 blacks had begun to carve out a life in Gettysburg. Among them were educators, veterinarians, shop keepers, blacksmiths and many who were born free. They owned homes, businesses and held important positions in this early pre-civil war society. They participated in many aspects of work and community life as well. They played a major role in the Underground Railroad and established their own institutions including churches and civic organizations. They were active in the war as soldiers. Thousands served as teamsters handling much of the logistics of the two massive armies and were paid more than white soldiers.
We wish to bring to light the dramatic plight of these early pioneers leading up to and during the actual battle here in Gettysburg. Theirs is a story that has been hidden and marginalized and remains heretofore untold. When brought to light it will balance American History as we know it. It will inspire a generation that has been largely misinformed releasing them to exploit their God given potentials. We have witnessed young black men upon visiting Gettysburg weep when they learned that others like them had made significant contributions to the nation’s history. Several of them have been inspired to go on to obtain a college education citing their experience at Gettysburg as a strong motivating factor.
To that end, plans are underway, to establish a proper museum in Gettysburg dedicated to the development and preservation of this important history. The project is to be a living experience to educate and inspire this current generation with the knowledge of the accomplishments of the past. The effort has been led mainly by actual descendants of the early families who settled here more than 150 years ago. For over a decade they have tirelessly collected oral histories, documents and artifacts passed down in their families. Joining the effort are churches, businessmen, historians, colleges, our local historical society, members of our tourist industry as well as interested members of the community. The project has captured the attention of local and national media including the Associated Press and local newspapers. Articles abound concerning the need to preserve this important aspect of American history.
Together we can fill in the gaps and missing chapters of our national narrative. Hopefully this will foster greater understanding and inspire many to reach for brighter futures.