There are over 200,000 names listed on the commemorative plaques that wrap around the retaining wall and in the center, you will find a 9-foot metal sculpture displaying multiple soldiers positioned for advancement, and as you make your way around the sculpture there is a mother with child.

The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued in late 1862 and was followed by Proclamation 95, which opened the door for African-Americans to enlist in the Union Army. The executive order was issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. 

Initially scheduled on Memorial Day weekend to honor the African-American soldiers who fought in the Civil War and the 60th Anniversary of the formation of the Organization of the African Union (May 1963) was rescheduled to June 4th, 2023, when Little Ethiopia DC hosted its 23rd Annual Wreath Laying Ceremony at the African-American Civil War Memorial located on 10th & U. St. NW from 3-4 pm and was followed by a reception in Little Ethiopia on 9th street. This year’s Wreath Laying was presented in partnership with the Miss Africa USA pageant founder, Lady Kate De Jerome. Lady Kate and this year’s Miss Africa Queen, Snit Tewoldemedhin, along with 1st Princess Muka Chisaka, and Delegate Amini Bonare walked the wreath to the monument. 

This year’s celebration also emphasized the 60th anniversary of the Organization of the African Union now called AU, and the words that may still resonate in the minds and hearts of human rights defenders calling out institutions and persons who deny basic human rights to all may take note from one of the founders of the OAU, the late Emperor Haile Selassie who delivered an unforgettable statement before the then League of Nations in 1936. “That until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; That until there are no longer first-class and second-class citizens of any nation; That until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes; That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race; That until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained”. This quote is also found in Robert Nesta Marley’s song titled, “War” released in 1976. The founders of the OAU were the late President Kwame Nkrumah, and the late Emperor Haile Selassie along with 32 signatory African states. Decades later human rights violators/actors have widened the scope of human rights atrocities on the continent to include ethnic-based human rights atrocities carried out internally, which remain unchecked in Ethiopia and numerous African countries right now.  

This year’s ceremony included surprise guests from a local school where students were visiting the memorial and their teacher Reginald Kirby explained to them the vital role that the African-American soldiers played in the civil war. “The confederacy was dominating the war against the North despite not having the muscle or funding. The late President Abraham knew that if they didn’t have the help of the Negroes that they would lose. My challenge for you all is that when you go to this monument don’t look at it as just another monument but go look at it from our DOE.” They all repeated in unison “I walk on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before me.” Kirby continued to direct the students, “Think about the giants, look for your last name, look for your great grandma, and grandpa’s last name, let us move in the space giving it the reverence it deserves.” 

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