The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary with a four-day series of panel discussions, re-enactments, book signings and a special art exhibit paying tribute to many of the forgotten names and soldiers of the era.
Things kicked off with a rededication of the Spirit of Freedom memorial with remarks from Robert Stanton, the first African-American director of the National Park Service. The memorial is a 9-foot-tall bronze statue by Ed Hamilton, showing three members of the United States Colored Troops, and a U.S. Navy sailor. The statue is only the centerpiece of the memorial, which also includes a curved walkway that has the inscribed names of the nearly 220,000 African-Americans who served in the military during the Civil War.
The art exhibit in question is going to be a commemorative installation, made possible through a partnership with Margery Goldberg’s Zenith Gallery. Participants include Curtis Wood and Hubert Jackson, two artists who have had their work featured both in the D.C. area and abroad. While they will both take their distinct styles to this subject, their approaches are quite different. Wood, who works in mixed media, pieces together historical and other imagery to focus on particular themes. Jackson’s “Spirits of the Battleground,” on the other hand, takes actual items from historical sites and integrates them into his art, creating a layered tribute to the soldiers.
Wood has eight different works as a part of the exhibit including “We Hold These Truths,” which is designed as an ironic mirror of the American flag. Instead of the 13 stars that represent the colonies, 13 photos of slavery are used. The usage of the words “We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident,” complete a piece that is as much a critique as it is art.
For Jackson, a native of Culpeper, Va, he recalls growing up surrounded by the legacy of the Civil War. Despite having little access to information due to segregation and underfunding, he tried to learn all he could, spending more than 30 years in a classroom as an art teacher. The work on “Spirits of The Battleground” dates back to 2014, when he started collecting items for it. “My focus is not on the historical aspect of the battles but much more on the spiritual,” he said in an interview. “I want to use this art to honor the lives of those who died on these spaces to affirm they are still with us.”