Group photograph of forty-one Black veterans of the Civil War, some wearing uniforms and Grand Army of the Republic insignia
Original Author: Harry C. Mann
Created: ca. 1910
Medium: Mounted photograph

Black Members of the Grand Army of the Republic

Black veterans of the Civil War gather for a reunion in Norfolk circa 1910. The forty-one men in the photograph were likely recruited in the area during the Civil War, served in black Union regiments, and then became members of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.). Most of the men recruited in the area had been formerly enslaved.

The G.A.R. was a powerful, national fraternal organization with local community units or "posts." G.A.R. posts were racially segregated and black members were often not permitted to take part in public activities, especially in the South. The men here are dressed in civilian garb or in G.A.R. uniforms, and almost all wear G.A.R. insignia on their jackets. (However, the former soldier in the front row at the far left, appears to be wearing a uniform dating to the Spanish-American War.)

Harry C. Mann probably took this photograph in West Point Cemetery in Norfolk, an historically Black municipal cemetery, a section of which was dedicated to the burial of Civil War veterans who belonged to the G.A.R. A monument to honor African American soldiers and sailors of all wars was erected in the cemetery. The base was completed in 1906 and a life-sized statue depicting Norfolk native Sergeant William Harvey Carney—the Union soldier who was the first Black recipient of the U.S. Army Medal of Honor—was added in 1920. The monument bears the inscription, "To The Memory of Our Heroes." This was probably the first monument in the South to honor African American service during the Civil War.

Citation: Grand Army of the Republic Reunion Photograph, n.d., Accession #11436, Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, VA