Monument honoring Black Civil War unit back on full display

BOSTON (AP) — A monument in downtown Boston honoring a famed Civil War unit of Black soldiers is being fully unveiled to the public following a $3 million restoration.

Officials planned to gather Friday afternoon to formally take the wraps off the Robert Gould Shaw and Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial. The towering bronze relief was returned to its perch on Boston Common across from the Statehouse in early March, but remained wrapped as restorers completed their work.

The memorial captures the stirring call to arms answered by Black soldiers who served in the unit, which was popularized in the 1989 Oscar-winning movie “Glory.”

American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens spent 14 years creating the monument, unveiling it to fanfare in 1897.

But the work is also among those that has faced scrutiny amid a national reckoning on racism sparked by last year’s killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

It depicts Shaw, the unit’s white commanding officer, riding on horseback while his Black soldiers walk in the background — a dynamic that some have suggested is problematic.

Debate about the design, however, has been muted because the memorial’s creation in the aftermath of the Civil War was championed by prominent Black Bostonians of the day. The monument is the nation’s first honoring Black soldiers.