The monument by Augustus Saint-Gaudens to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, located on Boston Common, stands at a symbolic crossroads of American history. A reminder of the nation's ongoing struggle over race, it captures the Civil War's higher purpose—the end of slavery—and memorializes those black soldiers and white officers who made common cause in the service of freedom. The monument and the saga of the 54 th Massachusetts remain powerful touchstones, inspiring enduring meditations such as Robert Lowell’s poem "For the Union Dead" and the popular film Glory.
This volume brings together the best scholarship on the history of the 54th, the formation of collective memory and identity, and the ways Americans have responded to the story of the regiment and the Saint-Gaudens monument. Contributors use the historical record and popular remembrance of the 54 th as a lens for examining race and community in the United States. The essays range in time from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and encompass history, literature, art, music, and popular culture.
In addition to the editors and Colin Powell, who writes about the memory and example of the 54th in his own career, contributors include Stephen Belyea, David W. Blight, Thomas Cripps, Kathryn Greenthal, James Oliver Horton, Edwin S. Redkey, Marilyn Richardson, Kirk Savage, James Smethurst, Cathy Stanton, Helen Vendler, Denise Von Glahn, and Joan Waugh.