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Spirit of Freedom demonstration event shares Black stories from the Civil War

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Civic and community leaders from across Indianapolis gathered at Crown Hill Cemetery to participate in the 25th annual Spirit of Freedom event, which celebrates African American soldiers who fought during the Civil War.

More than 1,000 IPS fifth and sixth graders gained a better understanding of Black Indiana history.

Through reenactment displays, the May 9 event, which was a partnership between Crown Hill and IPS, was intended to highlight Indiana’s only African American regiment, which served as part of the 28th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops.

RELATED: 25th annual “Spirit of Freedom” demonstration at Crown Hill Cemetery Photos

“The students are talking with reenactors and learning that, first of all, Black people fought in war, but seldom do we hear about that,” said Dr. Pat Payne, the director of the Racial Equity Office at IPS.

The Civil War was fought between 1861-1865 and left more than 600,000 dead. It’s impact on American history is still being felt today.
Crown Hill is the final resting place of more than 225 African American soldiers who fought for the U.S. Army.


Mike Marsh and his wife, Beverly, reenacted Dr. Richard Jordan Gatling’s story. During the war, Gatling developed what became known as the Gatling gun. It is considered one of the first successful machine guns.

“I was an engineer by trade, so I like this technology. That’s how we got set up with Dr. Gatling’s gun. Dr. Gatling invented the gun here in Indianapolis. He’s buried right here in this cemetery,” said Marsh.

The couple showcased Gatling gun firing demonstrations for the students.
Danny Russel participated in reenacting President Lincoln’s upbringing for the students.

“I appreciate telling his story from the log cabin to the White House. He grew up in Indiana, and taught himself how to read and write in the Hoosier state. He saw a slave auction that changed his life,” said Russel.

The event featured the Arsenal Technical High School Drum Line and Crispus Attucks High School JROTC Color Guard.

The event also featured various reenactors portraying historical characters, including Sgt. Andrew Smith of the 55th Massachusetts Colored Volunteers; Harriet Tubman; freeborn seamstress Sarah Elizabeth Brown Cuffee; Pvt. Stephen King, a drummer for the 28th Indiana Colored Infantry.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at 317-607-5792 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON

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