Currier & Ives. [Gallant charge of the 54th Massachusetts] (New York, 1863)
The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the first black regiment of northern blacks, was formed in the immediate wake of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Commanded by Robert Gould Shaw, a son of Harvard, the regiment reflected the possibility of black citizenship, since soldiers were considered citizens, and reflected the social revolution wrought by the Civil War. This image dramatizes the 54th attack on Confederates at Fort Wagner. This and other representations of the battle convinced countless Northerners that black soldiers were as capable as white soldiers, were crucial to a Union victory, and thus deserved freedom and equality before the law.
Portrait file, S – Bequest of Evert Jansen Wendell, 1918.