Glory is a film that tells the story of American’s first all black platoon. Part of the United States Army, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was made up of a band of fugitive slaves, and at least one free black, who fought together for Emancipation and freedom during the Civil War. This war is not only important to American History but African American History as well. The Civil War is known to many as a war against slavery and for Black freedom. Free states of the north and the slave states of the south battled against one another as the country struggled to unionize. The outcome of the Civil War not only changed the course of history, it helped to shape the United States into the country that we live in today.
The message of the film taught the audience, that individuals can overcome any obstacle no matter how small or large. It also demonstrated struggles of the regiment’s White leader and the Black soldiers as they fought and struggled for freedom, chance, and opportunity. A memorable scene in the movie was when the Colonel read allowed the possible outcomes in the event that the Union lost the war. He informed the soldiers and commanding officers that Blacks could be put to death or reenslaved. The white Colonial in charge of the platoon made the same sacrifices as well. If caught and apprehended by Confederates, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw Commanding Officer, would suffer the same outcome. As a result, Colonel Shaw was willing take this risk, not only for Black freedom but also to allow Blacks opportunity to serve their country. This was observed when the Colonel threatened to report his white counterpart. This was observed when the platoon was given tasks of manual labor, unable to enter war and battle against Confederates.
Glory plays an influential role in educating the masses on America’s first all-Black Military platoon. However, the film was presented from the point of view of commanding officer, Colonel Shaw. This restricted the role, understanding, and feelings of the soldiers who fought. Despite this weakness, the movie had various strengths. It was an original film documenting true occurrences in history. It demonstrated the struggle of government and other elites to turn former slaves into soldiers. Some had fears about providing hundreds of Black men with weapons. Others felt Blacks were not American or patriotic enough to fight in the war due to the way of life for Blacks in the mid 1800’s and slavery. The point of view of the film can also be seen as a strength as it shows the dedication, drive, and fight that radical whites underwent to support Black freedom.
A motion picture film made for theater viewing and audience entertainment, the film was created to evoke pride, unity, and solidarity. Knowing and understanding the history of Blacks in this country and the Whites who paved the way, encourages pride for our nation and those who fought for the country. It also encourages patriotism, as many people have died for American freedom that many of us take for granted today. The personal struggles of the soldiers and commanding officers emphasize the large role these people played in history. This role largely influenced everyday American life. The audience response of American pride is also the message of social justice presented in the movie- not one person that was part of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry died in vain. These individuals, both black and white, paved the way for African Americans, the American military, and diversity in the armed forces that we see today. However, most importantly, this regiment and the others helped the Union win the Civil War.
Often, when studying and learning about African American history, White’s and their role in freedom is left out, forgotten, or underestimated. Although many know the importance of Abolitionist in the underground-railroad, rallies, and movements against slavery, it is easy to forget the sacrifices they made to establish freedom and equality. It is widely known that Blacks were offered freedom for enlisting in the army and fight against Confederates. However, it is not well known what it entailed. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry helped to ease fears to use Blacks in battle. It also demonstrated Black patriotism. These small steps encouraged unity within the nation that all soldiers deserve honor and pride for their participation and sacrifice.
The film was demonstrates the foundation of Blacks in the U.S military. It brought enlightenment to the viewers in which various lessons could be learned about the role of Whites as it relates to Black freedom, the off field battles of the platoon, and the sacrifices made by everyone involved. Despite this there were many unanswered questions about the Black soldiers who volunteered and the outcome of the surviving members. There was curiosity concerning the number of soldiers in this regiment, who died, and who survived. Other questions are about the important battle that the platoon took part in, the battle of Fort Wagner- did they win this battle?
Glory is an important film to African American history and the world of entertainment, in which it was able to do both simultaneously. The film was able to educate its viewers on the beginnings of breaking color barriers in the U.S military. Stories such as the Tuskegee Airmen are well known, however it is the Army’s 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry helped pave the way for future Black soldiers. The Civil War was an important war the set the foundations of the United States. It not only united the country and outlawed slavery, it brought Blacks to the military, symbolizing Black Americanism, purpose, and identity. Stories such as this are easily forgotten or passed over. However, this movie was able to bring the story back to life, giving it significance and importance to American history.