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American Experience: The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry
American Experience The Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry
Actor: Marion Ross
Director: Rocky Collins; Matthew Collins (III)
Genres: Educational, Documentary, African American Cinema
UR     2006     0hr 56min

Two years into the Civil War, free men of color were still denied the right to fight for the end of slavery. Weeks after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the governor of Massachusetts was authorized to raise t...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: Marion Ross
Director: Rocky Collins; Matthew Collins (III)
Genres: Educational, Documentary, African American Cinema
Sub-Genres: Educational, Biography, History, Military History, Civil War, African American Cinema
Studio: WGBH Boston
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 01/24/2006
Original Release Date: 04/18/2005
Theatrical Release Date: 04/18/2005
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 0hr 56min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The facts behind "Glory"
Jeffery Mingo | Homewood, IL USA | 05/23/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"This disc looks at the experiences of the real troop that was portrayed in "Glory," the first all-Black military unit during the Civil War.
Though the work is informative, it is also upsetting because of how some things did not change. Here, Black troops were gathered out of necessity, not altruism or equality. The same is true of Blacks who served in World War I. Here, Black troops were promised the same wages as whites, but once they were actually in battle, they were offered much less. This is similar to how during World War II, though the military was technically integrated, blacks were only given lowly positions. In the 1850s, as in much of the 1900s, no black could become an officer. This idea that the American military is some type of great equalizer has not been true historically.
Only men were official members of the military, but the disc tries to be inclusive of women. Female descendants of veterans were interviewed. They talked about how women and children suffered back at home without their husbands and fathers earning fair wages. They focused on a Caucasian female abolitionist who taught newly freed children. I appreciated hearing about her, but it would have been nice to hear more from/about an actual African-American woman of the time.
This film never mentions Crispus Attucks, though he was a black patriot from Massachusetts that came before these soldiers. The fact that later Japanese-American soldiers in World War II fought under the same dynamic circumstances as these military men did not come up either.
Morgan Freeman does a great job in narrating. He can speak on penguins, but his talent in detailing African-American history remains strong. This disc had no cheesy reenactments as many a current documentary do. This is odd given that so many Americans love reenacting this war. One interviewee is a modern state legislator. I couldn't go into detail about what people who had my job 100 years ago did. I imagine neither modern politicians nor soldiers could do that either. Thus, I am not sure how this interviewee got his information. I wonder if he had a Ph.D. in history or something. He had these catfishlike or lynxlike whiskers in his beard. I am surprised that his constituents haven't raised their eyebrows about this characteristic.
If you liked "Tuskegee Airmen," "A Soldier's Story," or others of their ilk, then you should enjoy this documentary."