Ser Boxley Enabled to be a Contributing Participant at the 3rd Annual Colored Troops (USCT) Symposium in Raleigh North Carolina March 23-25-2007
Opening the way
A week before the third Annual USCT Symposium convened Nana Bennie McRae called saying a person in his Lest We Forget Communication (LWFC) Network indicated she was willing to sponsor my person’s attendance at the Symposium.
While trying to rationalize the merits of my not having time available, Nana Bennie pulled one of his well known facilitating moves by hooking up a three-way phone conversation with Jan Billups out in Texas.
She was so wonderfully persuasive and positioned to (immediately) sponsor my flight and hotel that I yielded to her and Nana Bennie’s insistence that I go representing the Mississippi Valley USCT Civil War history and legacies. In less than an hour, Jan hooked up my plane flight and hotel room at her cost. Nana Bennie and I were speechless (not an easy thing for both of us).
A call to Nana Bennie’s Network person, Sergeant-Major Norman Fisher of the 1st Mississippi Colored Regiment Infantry Re-enactors of Jackson, Mississippi resulted in a cash contribution toward other expenses. A Wednesday overnight stay with another Bennie’s Network person, Renee Shakespeare of Jackson, on Thursday March 22 my person flew into RDU (Raleigh-Durham) North Carolina.
My disgust about no hotel shuttles to downtown Raleigh hotels from the airport disappeared in an instant after entering the symposium organizers Cultural Heritage Museum’s of Kinston N. C. hospitality suit on the 18th floor of the Clarion Hotel State Capital. Here were twenty or so persons gathered around a table conversing about various symposium logistics.
Instantly, Joe Certaine, interim President of USCT Living History Association (USCTLHA), spring from his chair came toward me shouting, “I know who you are!” Ser Boxley! He was full of my type of energy, very complimentary of my work in Natchez and we embraced African to African. He knew me from the Forks of the Roads website and all those email missiles sent and or forwarded by my person.
Joe introduced Mel Reid who also complimented my person on my work in Mississippi. Next person introduced was Malcolm Beech who was busy coordinating things. He knew my person as well.
We all were surprised when the grand nephew of Major Martin Delany introduced himself. He is Gerald Burks from Galveston, Texas.
Already, my person was at home with USCT homies whose faces now matched with email addresses and names as did mine.
In the ensuing discussion with Joe Certaine, he emphasized the need for continuing the building of the USCT network and coalitions. He spoke of the need for the Network he heads to come to Natchez, Mississippi and carry out a USCT activity. Most importantly, he emphasized the absolute must for USCT folk to become active in planning and development for the 150th anniversary of the Civil War from 2011 to 2015. He spoke of federal funds for such planning and development passed down to sources in Pennsylvania and Louisiana. Louisiana State University is the Louisiana source.
Local state USCT folk must develop involvement plans and present to political “Black Causes” for funding in their states. “The 150th anniversary of America’s Civil War must have USCT presence and participation,” said Joe Certaine.
Joe stated that all USCT folk should to use Nana Bennie McRae’s approach of using historical facts regarding the “mythical Black confederates” conspiracy. Use the “all inclusive approach” he championed. Meaning, show the use of “Blacks” by the confederates as they actually used them, impressed into labor service and “Blacks” served as laborers on the Union side.
Joe thinks we can jump start USCT 150th anniversary of the Civil War in 2009 by commemorating John Brown’s 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry.
Thursday night the President of Cultural Heritage Museum (CHM) and program coordinator for the Museum’s Third Annual United States Colored Troops Symposium “Earning the Right to Citizenship III”, Malcolm Beech recruited those of us present with USCT uniforms to be Living History demonstrators at local middle schools.
We gathered in the hotel lobby at 8:30 A. M. There were enough persons to form four teams of three to a team. My person was teamed with two female re-enactors, one “White,” the other “Black.” We were transported to Ligon Middle School by CHM’s official photographer, Sammy Aiken,
After checking in at the school’s office, we were directed to Mr. Miller’s class. We presented Civil War demonstrations for three forty-five minutes classes each.
The two female presenters portrayed Union Army female spies. Denise Benedetto portrayed Mary Elizabeth Bowser, a manumitted enslaved person born in Richmond, Virginia in 1839. Mary Bowser received a formal education in Princeton, New Jersey paid for by the family of Elizabeth Van Lew.
“Working with Elizabeth Van Lew, Mary returned to Richmond, Virginia and positioned herself within the Confederate White House under Confederate President, Jefferson Davis as a household servant. In this position, with her photographic memory and the ability to read and write Mary Elizabeth Bowser became known as the highest placed spy and one of the countries most significant espionage agents to the Union’s war efforts. In 1995 Mary Elizabeth Bowser was introduced into the Fort Huachuca’s Hall of Military Intelligence.”
Mary Carol Hill portrayed Elizabeth Van Lew. Her “actions as a Union Sympathizer, providing food to union prisoners, financial support for Underground Railroad safe houses and an intricate union spy behind Confederate lines soon led her to publicly display herself as a dim wit. This caused people to refer to her as “Crazy Betty.”
My person turn came after Mary and Elizabeth. I informed the students that my person does not portray any particular USCT soldier or sailor, but am a shower and teller of the whole history of African people. I never start ourstory with our presence in America, but start by going back two million years or more of the history all “Black” African descendants of today are the sum. By so doing we know what we have done as a people who originated civilization. We see that our people invented medicine, math, construction, engineering, astronomy, writing, alphabet, family, agriculture, art, music, royal government, religion (spiritual science), science, metalworking, cities and so on. We see how our people peopled the world and “Black men and women ruled the world.” We see how our people brought construction to Europe when they ruled Spain and Portugal nearly seven hundred (700) or more years. This is much longer than when we have been forced to live in the United States of America.
We see as African people, we always were free and independent until strangers invaded our land of origin. We see the consistent struggle for freedom in America when the first African Ancestors set foot upon the “Native American’s” land in captivity.
My person now turn to the freedom seeking self emancipation actions and freedom fighting decisions of the Civil War by joining in the “White Man’s War” on the side of United States Union Army. Here is where I tell the story of the USCT-Sailors and all those others supporting women, children and elder men who decisively helped defeat the Confederates, end chattel slavery and preserve the union of the United States.
Specifically, I point out that those greatest generations of enslaved men and women, children and elder were the sum of all the years of their Foreparents and Ancestors who were enslaved and oppressed in America, who at the right time rose up in the greatest enslaved and non-enslaved person’s rebellion in the history of America. This is why we “African-Americans” are not chattel “slaves” today.
Finally, I asked the children regardless of racial type, to go home and find out what their Foreparents and Ancestors did during the Civil War.
Since 1966, my person have been collecting images and presenting ourstory in schools (from pre-school to college), corporations, festivals, conferences, churches, government agencies and other places and sources. My main show and tell presentation is entitled The African Origin of and Contributions to Civilization.
It was a pleasure to present in a Raleigh North Carolina middle school. Reminded me of my days in California when I worked whole elementary schools for a week, forty-five minutes class by class as they came to my exhibition erected in a school room.
Upon returning to the Clarion Hotel, more of Nana Bennie’s Network
people had arrived by motorcar. Henry Burke was the first person whose
face matched his email address. Ross Fowler did not match my imagined
image of his person nevertheless; he impressed me greatly with the
aurora of a great African elder. Knowing that Bennie rode down to
Then my person camped out in the Four Sisters Room from one to five P. M., as a participant in the USCTLHA Business Meeting. I also hung a huge banner imprinted upon it the charter of Natchez USCT Living History Unit and a picture of the National Park Service reproduction of a flag given to the “5th Heavy Artillery Company C by the Colored Citizen of Natchez” during the Civil War.
In addition, I displayed several reproductions of the kiosk interpretative panels now erected at the Forks of the Roads enslavement markets sites in Natchez Mississippi. These exhibits remained on display for the two days of the seminar at the hotel. Many pictures taken during that time have these images in the background. The banner served as the background for various video interviews conducted.
Jan Billups and Nana Bennie had said my person would be glad that I attended the USCT Symposium. They do not really know how glad my person was to have been a participant in the room with so many USCT-sailors men and women and some children. It was so impressive, gratifying and energizing to be in the same room with so many of Nana Bennie’s email brigade whose faces I had never seen before. The women re-enactors emboldened my person to come back to Mississippi and impress upon women, “Black and White” to become re-enactors of the history of women who worked in Mississippi and Louisiana with the Union Army.
My person came out of the USCTLHA business meeting armed with ammunition to take our struggle in Mississippi-Louisiana to a national level based upon a national USCT-Sailors Living History Association agenda.
I have inserted the minutes of that meeting as prepared by Calvary-Sergeant Joe Certaine to suffice for this part of my report.
More than forty delegates of historical organizations and other
supporters affiliated with the United States Colored Troops met in
Raleigh North Carolina on Friday, March 23, 2007. The representatives of the United States Colored Troops Living History Association met to chart a course for the next year, elect officers and conduct other organization business. The business meeting was held in conjunction with a weekend USCT Symposium.
Delegates representing USCT military units, living historians,
storytellers, research/writers, historians, educators and business
people made decisions that will position the organization to
eventually have a central role in having American Civil War history
Any accurate presentation of the history of the American Civil War
must include the full story of the United States Colored Troops. The current planning for the sesquicentennial observance of the American Civil War, in individual states as well as nationally, must include the accurate story of the quest for freedom by Black Americans.
USCTLHA delegates agreed:
Ms. Sharon Heist of Sierra Vista, Arizona has been elected
Secretary of the USCTLHA.
Mr. Charles "Ben" Hawley of Silver Springs Maryland
has been elected Treasurer of the USCTLHA
Sharon will provide you with a full list of the incoming officers
and other important information.
Ben will provide you with instructions regarding dues
For more detailed information about the meeting, please contact Sharon at email@example.com
Joe Certaine, President
Both Nana Bennie and my person are so emboldened, impressed and gratified to have been participants in the rooms with so many comrades, males, females and some children.
Day One Welcome Reception
CHM lined up an impressive welcoming reception at the North Carolina Museum of History a few blocks from our hotel. It was well attended and entertaining with performances by “Black Story Tellers.” The food was hearty.
Day two began with an opening ceremony at 8:30 A. M. The USCTLHA members presented the flag colors. There were more people present as we met as a whole in the Four Sisters Room.
After a briefing on the day’s program proceeding, Malcolm Beech guided us through personal introductions. My person was the deep south only representation thanks to you know whom.
Dr. David Anderson from New York edutained us with a soul stirring portrayal of Frederick Douglass, after which my person departed for workshops of my interests.
They were "Marketing African American History and Culture."
"Black Spy Network in the Civil War."
“Black Confederates---Myth or Reality”
The issue in the Marketing workshop attracting my attention was the question of how to get African Americans interested in our history.
My person was really lit up by Hari Jones of the Black Civil War Museum in Washington D. C. He presented detailed information as to the extent enslaved and non-enslaved persons aided the Union Army during the Civil War. Most impressive on my person was his information about the impact these persons made in the Union Army’s victories in the Mississippi Valley Campaign. Particularly interesting was the service they provided General Grant in that Campaign. So much so that when Grant went east he always wanted “Black troops and persons in his command. Hari presented a transparent presentation of the role of Martin Delany as a leading instigator of “blacks” spying for the Union throughout the Deep South. Of most particular interest, Hari showed us how enslaved and non-enslaved Ancestors and Foreparents coded their resistance messages in oral expressions, even biblical verses.
The “Black Confederates” session was high spirited and well attended. The pro-Black Confederate speakers went first, and neither had sufficient documentation to provide any valid proof. Sharon Heist nailed down the coffin lid by verifying the impossibility of Black Confederates. Through the use of her research in Confederate documents, there could be no refuting the proof. In response to the archivist who brought the records of a Black Confederate "Soldier," she reiterated that his pension statements only said "satisfactory service" - there was NO mention of MILITARY service. She had already verified the existence of many thousands of conscripted slaves and freedmen to work on the fortifications, serve as cooks, teamsters, etc. but that it was entirely illegal for Blacks to bear arms until March 13, 1865, less than two weeks prior to Appomattox. Dr. Asa Gordon of the Sons and Daughters of USCT in affiliation with the National Civil War Museum and Monument went for the jugular with his further documentation. He choked the issue to death by using the Confederate's own records and letters. He did it in such an exciting and passionate way, almost everyone cheered and applauded.
Day Two Luncheon
Around noontime, we attended a hearty luncheon where Judge James Wynn of North Carolina Appeals Court was the keynote speaker.
Dr. David Anderson poured a traditional African libation offering to the USCT Ancestors as well as those who served in freedom seeking capacities during the Civil War. My person was surprised, but very pleased with the libation. It is a regular spiritual activity for my person.
My person left the luncheon before the keynote speaker spoke. I wanted to be on time for Hari Jones presentation.
Day Two Heritage Visionary Leadership Awards Banquet
All USCT men were asked earlier to wear our uniforms to the banquet. We stood when Nana Bennie McRae was presented with an award in recognition of his years of works at LWF Communications and in the community.
Dr. Elliot B. Palmer honored for his and his mates pioneering work as founders and curators of an African American history museum.
Ms. Andrena Coleman honored for her site manager work at Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum at Historic Palmer Memorial Institute, Sedalia, NC.
Nana Bennie accepted his award in honor of all of us who are part of his LWF Communications Network and comrades in struggle to tell ourstory.
Mitch Capel, Master Storyteller performed masterly bringing alive the stories of select USCT freedom fighters.
The food was again hearty.
CHM Symposium attendees still in town along with local community folk traveled to Raleigh’s National Military Cemetery. Here we participated in a commemorative wreath laying ceremony for a dozen or so USCT soldiers whose graves were discovered only a few days before the symposium convened. My person served in an official capacity as wreath bearer.
It was a smooth flight to Baltimore where I changed planes and continued back to Jackson, Mississippi on a smooth flight as well. Another overnight stay at Renee Shakespeare’s house to be in position Monday to travel to Vicksburg National Military Park to personally review the new Milliken’s Bend exhibit. Darn, it was still incomplete, but well in progress. I photographed the partial erected exhibit, obtained reasons why from the key Park Ranger and headed on back to Natchez emboldened and energized from attending the USCT Symposium in Raleigh North Carolina
Thank to my sponsors so very much!
Ser Seshs Ab Heter-CM Boxley, Coordinator Friend of the Forks of the Roads Society Inc. and its Fort McPherson Sons and Daughters of USCT unit.
Photos by Sharon Heist and Bennie McRae
[RALEIGH USCTLHA BUSINESS MEETING - 3/23/07]
[SER BOXLEY'S INDEX PAGE]
Bennie J. McRae, Jr.
visitors since April 4, 2007