Communities Asked To Honor Black Soldiers Who Served In The Revolution


A years-long effort to win
recognition for the thousands of black soldiers who fought in the
Revolutionary War is coming to Connecticut.

Eighty Connecticut
municipalities are being asked to adopt resolutions recognizing the
contributions of those black soldiers and sailors. They are also being
asked to support efforts to build a monument in Washington, D.C., honoring the black men who fought against the British in the war for independence.

U.S. Sens. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent, and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa,
introduced legislation May 4 that would allow the monument to be built
on a parcel adjacent to the National Mall. There are many more steps to
be taken, though, before the monument can be built.

The bill must
be passed by Congress and signed by the president, and after that
supporters will have to raise money to get it built.

The man behind the movement is Maurice Barboza, a resident of Virginia who grew up in Plainville.
He has worked as a public relations and communications consultant but
has devoted much of his time and energy in the past 30 years to get the
monument built.

Barboza said his goal in reaching out to cities
and towns is to build awareness for his project. In 2008, the National
Society Daughters of the American Revolution
published “Forgotten Patriots,” which listed 5,000 black soldiers and
1,600 Indian soldiers who served in the war, some from Connecticut.
Barboza said the research gives the state special insight into its
history.

“I want to put this resource to good use so that
residents of Connecticut know that these patriots served,” Barboza said.
“I want to get this to the grass roots, and I’m hoping for more grass
roots research that might uncover more black soldiers.”

The DAR’s
book was prompted by a 1984 settlement between the organization and
Barboza’s aunt, the late Lena Ferguson, also of Plainville. Ferguson,
like Barboza, was African American. She was rebuffed when she tried to
join a DAR chapter in the Washington, D.C., area. As part of the
settlement she was allowed to join the DAR and agreed to do the research
that lead to the book.

Historians believe that of the approximately 250,000 soldiers who fought against the British, at least 5,000 were black.

Of
those, 820 were from Connecticut, and of that number, 562 have been
connected to a community through records, either because they were born
there, lived there or enlisted in the army there. The role of black
soldiers in the Revolution has long been known, but Barboza wants
individual soldiers properly identified.

Barboza sent his
resolution request to 80 communities where there is a proven connection
to known soldiers. A few are getting ready to take up the matter. For
instance, John Elsesser, town manager in Tolland,
said the council there will consider Barboza’s resolution May 16.
According to the DAR records, two black soldiers from Tolland served in
the Revolutionary War.

Barboza’s native Plainville had not been
incorporated as a town when the war broke out and it’s unclear if any
black soldiers from the town served. But Barboza sent the resolution to
Plainville and Town Manager Robert Lee said in an e-mail to Barboza that
the town council may consider it May 16.

In Norwich,
the resolution will be incorporated into events the city has planned to
mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln’s
directive giving slaves their freedom during the Civil War.

“It’s a
significant part of history and needs to be celebrated and incorporated
into what we are doing,” Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom said about the
resolution. He said Lincoln campaigned in Norwich in 1860 and that the
150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation is a way of
celebrating the city’s ties to Lincoln.

According to records, 32
black Revolutionary soldiers came from Norwich, the second largest
number in the state. The largest contingent of black soldiers, 33, came
from Colchester; Stratford sent 32. Other large groups include 28 from Stonington, 24 from Groton and 20 from Wallingford.

Barboza
is the founder of Liberty Fund D.C., an organization dedicated to
getting a monument on the National Mall honoring black soldiers who
fought in the Revolutionary War. The effort has had numerous setbacks in
recent years as it tries to clear legislative and bureaucratic hurdles.
But Barboza said he’s confident that Congress will approve Lieberman’s
and Grassley’s bill.

Chris Dodd
took on the effort, but now that he is not in the Senate anymore, Sen.
Lieberman felt it was something that he could do,” said Whitney
Phillips, Lieberman’s press secretary, “and we were assured by the
relevant committees that they would welcome the bill.”

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