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Public Notices

April 21, 2014

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Visitor Center Exhibit On Black Americans' Military Service

Originally published: 2013-08-03 00:25:07
Last modified: 2013-08-03 00:29:37

A new exhibit that focuses on the military service of black Americans from the Civil War to World War II is open from August to September at the Andrew Johnson Visitor Center.

The exhibit, titled "Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom," focuses on milestones along black Americans' march to citizenship and equality under the law.

The exhibit traces the link between black Americans' military service and progress toward civil rights, from the Emancipation Proclamation through World War II and President Harry Truman's desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces by executive order in 1948.

The Andrew Johnson Visitor Center is located at the corner of College and East Depot streets in Greeneville's Downtown Historic District.

August 2013 marks the 150th anniversary of Andrew Johnson's official endorsement of emancipation as a goal for the Union in the Civil War.

Speaking in Nashville on Aug. 29, 1863, Johnson said that "the heart of the masses of the people beat strongly for freedom" and went on to say that he was "unequivocally for the removal of slavery, the sooner it can be effected the better."

By November of that year, Johnson had assisted in the recruitment of three regiments of black soldiers, who were stationed at Nashville.

By October 1864, Johnson declared "freedom -- full, broad, and unconditional" -- in Tennessee. He achieved slavery's legal end by amending the state constitution in early 1865.

"Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom" takes its theme from an 1862 song that popularized the cause of freedom as a goal for the Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln used the example of black military service not just to gain passage of the 13th Amendment ending slavery but also to suggest voting rights for members of the United States Colored Troops, USCT.

World War I returned black veterans to the United States with a new outlook on equality from the respect they received from Europeans they helped to liberate.

World War II provided a similar experience, with renewed progress toward civil rights supported by the example of not only USCT units in Europe but the exploits of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

Ultimately, Truman's desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces paved the way for a more successful civil rights movement, led in the 1950s and 1960s by men like Medgar Evers, a WWII veteran whose murder in Mississippi occurred 50 years ago this past June.

The Andrew Johnson Visitor Center is open at no charge to the public seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The "Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom" exhibit is on display in the Tailor Shop Memorial.

For more information, please contact Jim Small at 639-3711.

For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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