Movie Details

Originally telecast on the award-winning PBS series The American Experience, this documentary chronicles the formation and battlefield heroics of the first all-black Union regiment, the Massachusetts 54th Colored Infantry. Early in the Civil War, most whites thought that blacks would never be able to fight in the disciplined manner of the U.S. Army. But as Union casualties mounted, President Lincoln realized that the country would need every able-bodied man they could muster. As noted in this program, once the Emancipation Proclamation was signed at the start of 1863, recruiting of black soldiers began, and they answered the call enthusiastically. Led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the 26-year old scion of a white abolitionist family in Boston, the 54th stormed the Confederate Fort Wagner in a bold attack that generated heavy casualties, but galvanized Northern admiration for black soldiers and spurred enlistment. Highlights of this documentary include archival daguerreotypes, tintypes, lithographs, and commentary by various historians. The 54th was the regiment portrayed in the Academy Award-winning motion picture Glory. ~ Steve Blackburn, Rovi