The 2010 History Center welcomed the "100 Voices" for a private viewing of their special exhibit, "United States Colored Troops & Harrisburg." The exhibit displayed a wide variety of artifacts, pictures, and rare documents which told the history of Colored Troops in Harrisburg as well as other locations in Pennsylvania. The highlights of the exhibit were the USCT muster rolls, recently unearthed form the National Archives in Washington D.C. The muster rolls recorded the names, birthplaces, towns of origin, and physical descriptions of thousands of United States Colored Troops. The Pennsylvania State Archives similarly is engaged in an effort to preserve the collection of this state's USCT muster rolls. This is a seemingly never-ending battle and donations to aid in this struggle are accepted on an ongoing basis. The fight is not over!
Participants in the 100 Voices Project at the Grand ReviewLater that afternoon, the troops marched to the historical Simon Cameron House for a light lunch. The Simon Cameron house, also known as the John Harris Mansion and the Harris Cameron Mansion was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1975. The house and the family artifacts on display inside were donated to the Historical Society of Dauphin County in 1941. The House is open to the general public for tours from April though December. After lunch, the "100 Vioces" participants had the opportunity to observe a symposium on Pennsylvania US Colored Troops titled, "Rather Die Freeman than Live to Be Slaves." The symposium featured George Washington University professor emeritus James Oliver Horton, and curator of the African American Civil War Museum Hari Jones. Following the lunch and symposium at the Cameron House, Companies A & B marched to the Hilton Hotel in downtown Harrisburg for the White Carnation League Dinner. The White Carnation League is a coalition of the descendants of different United States Colored Troops. At the dinner, new members of the Carnation League were formally inducted, and the Martin R. Delaney service award for the PA Quest for Freedom was presented to Frank Gilyard - founder and director of the African American Museum located in Reading, Pennsylvania. For the remainder of the evening, the USCT soldiers had the honor to greet the members of the White Carnation League as they arrived. On the day of the parade, the soldiers were first scheduled to meet at the Forum Building for the "Grand Review Blessing and Dedication" to begin the days events. At the "Blessing and Dedication," The Civil War General read a list of all the US Colored Troops from Pennsylvania. Soon thereafter, "100 Voices" soldiers gathered outside for an informal prayer session. The parade was a spectacular event. Speeches, orations, and songs were set up at several stations along the parade route. The first stop was hosted by the President of the Harrisburg City Council, Gloria M. Roberts, and featured songs by the Bethel AME Quartet of Mercersburg as well as a performance by the Harrisburg High School Marching Band. The Dauphin County Commissioner, Jeffery Hast, welcome the US Colored Troops as they arrived at the next stop. Vocalist Diane Wilson sang the national anthem, and Hari Jones delivered a powerful oration on the importance of recognizing African American military history. The Cameron House served as the location for the third stop, and finally the parade marched to the State Capitol building. The men of the "100 Voices" had the opportunity to meet Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and listen to our very own Lenwood Sloan speak to a crowd of thousands of USCT supporters. The Grand Review activities continued at The Atrium, located directly across the street from the Capitol building. Historians William Gladstone and Bob O'Connor conducted a conversation on Camp William Penn with USCT soldiers and historians. Camp William Penn had been the main encampment in Pennsylvania for USCT volunteers as they received military training prior to going into the field. Gladstone and O'Connor's presentation included excerpts from the movie "Black Soldiers in Blue." Graham O'Neill, lead researcher for the "100 Voices" from the National Archives in Philadelphia, hosted a hands-n genealogical workshop focusing on research for self-discovery. Perhaps the most profound experience of the day was attending the performance by Miss Harriet Tubman, played by Millicent Sparks. As a lifelong history buff, Sparks develops and produces historically researched and accurate living history performances. She works with a performance team of professional actors who breather life into historical figures for dramatic representations. The combined efforts of these volunteers, archivists, historians, historical re-enactors, representatives of government and a host of others truly brought to life the African American experience during the Civil War. Stay "tuned" for the next installment on the conclusion of these ceremonies during this memorable weekend.