Glory is the historical movie that tells us the story of Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry during the Civil War. However, this infantry was unlike that of any other, it was the 54th regiment; the first military unit organized that enlisted African Americans. This regiment was also considered famous for the bloody battles it fought at Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina.
Although the movie was made to inform audiences about the 54th regiment, there were historical inaccuracies. One historical inaccuracy was that the regiment was composed mostly of ex-slaves, when in reality only one of the members was a former slave. Most of the members were Northern African Americans, who were literate and skilled. The 54th regiment was led by a White man as all other black troops were during the Civil War.
Robert Gould Shaw was not Governor Andrew’s first choice to lead the regiment, however in the movie he was. When the position was offered to him, he hesitated before deciding to accept. The regiment in the movie as made up largely of runaway slaves like John Rawlins or Private Trip was actually a regiment of freedmen, like Thomas Searles recruited not only from Massachusetts but New York and Pennsylvania as well. Two of Frederick Douglass’ sons volunteered for the regiment. In fact, Lewis Douglass was the regiment’s sergeant major. During the Civil War, most Southerners thought that African Americans were naturally passive. However, there was doubt about this in the North also. In the movie, a reporter from Harper’s Monthly asks Colonel Shaw if the African Americans will fight, a million readers want to know." To which Shaw replies, "a million and one.” This shows that in 1863, even Northern abolitionists had their doubts about the strength and willingness to fight of African Americans. By inaccurately portraying the 54th as a regiment of former slaves, Glory shows that African Americans were not the slaves that Southerners believed them to be and that abolitionists feared that they might be.
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