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Washington D.C. museum director visits Natchez in support
of U.S. Colored Troops monument project

Note: This story appeared on
page 3A 
in the Sunday, May 7, 2023,
issue of The Natchez Democrat. It was published on Friday, May 5, 2023, by
Magnolia State Live.

Agreement signed for 8,000 names of US Colored Troops
to be placed on Mississippi monument dedicated to
Civil War African Americans

By Magnolia State Live   
Published 3:35 pm Friday, May 5, 2023 

Mayor Dan Gibson, left, and Dr. Frank Smith, founding
director of the African American Civil War Museum, sign agreement for the 8,000
names the Museum provided of the U.S. Colored Troops based at Fort McPherson in
Natchez. These names will be listed on the proposed monument. (submitted photo) 

Dr. Frank Smith, founding director of the African
American Civil War Museum, recently visited Natchez to show his support for the
Natchez U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) monument, which will be called, the Natchez
African American Civil War Memorial. 

On Tuesday, May 2, Smith and Mayor Dan Gibson signed an
agreement for the 8,000 names the Museum provided of the USCT based at Fort
McPherson. These names will be listed on the proposed monument. 

On Wednesday, May 3, Smith and his team from Washington,
D.C., met with representatives of the Natchez National Historical Park to
discuss a grant approved for the creation of a virtual USCT trail. “Inspired by
the freedom trail, the USCT trail would be a series of virtual markers across
the country at National Park Service sites,” according to Dr. Dawn Chitty, the
Museum’s director of education.  

“We were very much impressed with all of the work that
the city has done to organize and care for this great new memorial,” said
Smith. “We are happy to play a role in supplying you with the names in the six
regiments that were based at Fort McPherson. These soldiers helped to save the

Gibson welcomed Smith and his team with warm greetings.
He said it was a privilege to meet with them. 

“We were so very honored to have Dr. Smith and his
delegation In Natchez,” Gibson said. “His life story, from civil rights
activist to four-term DC Councilman is historic in and of itself. And the
fact that he is the founding director of the National African American Civil
War Museum and creator of the National U.S. Colored Troops Monument speaks
volumes of his commitment to telling ‘all of the story’ of American

Smith’s two-day visit began on Tuesday with a tour of
Natchez that was led by Gibson, and Robert Pernell, who chairs the Natchez U.S.
Colored Troops Monument Committee. This was followed by a 4 p.m. meeting in the
Council Chambers, where members of the USCT Committee gave presentations on the
proposed monument. Committee members included Lance Harris, who chairs the
Monument Design Subcommittee; Devin Heath, who chairs the Site Design Subcommittee;
Deborah Fountain, who chairs the History and Research Subcommittee; and Carter
Burns, co-chairman of the USCT Committee. 

On Wednesday, Smith and his team joined Ser Seshsh
Ab Heter-Clifford M. Boxley for a tour of the Forks of the Road, according
to Chitty. This was followed by a meeting with Park Historian Jeff Mansell, and
Chief of Interpretation, Dr. David Slay at Natchez National Historical Park.
The day ended with a tour of the Natchez National Cemetery to view the
grave of Buck Murphy, a USCT soldier. 

In addition to Chitty, Smith’s delegation included Edwin
Gasaway, operations manager; Nia Crawford, intern – community
volunteer advocate for the National Park Service; Marquett Milton,
historical interpreter; and Robert Walker, former mayor of Vicksburg.  

Gibson said the City of Natchez is proud to “partner with
Dr. Smith and his team.” He noted that “having access to the over 8000
names of those who served our country in Natchez will be an added bonus to our
soon-to-be developed monument on the northern Bluff.” 

The agreement signed by Gibson and Smith was officially
announced by Fountain in November 2021. 

Pernell said the visit by Smith was both timely and
important. “Right now we’re working on the design of the monument, and we’re
engaged in fundraising,” he said. “The partnership with Dr. Smith is
significant in that it provides us with an ally in D.C. who has the knowledge
and many important resources related to our work.” 

Pernell said the USCT Committee urgently needs donations
from individuals, institutions, and businesses in order to move forward to the
next phase of the project. “I sincerely believe that when this monument is
completed, people will be astounded, grateful, and deeply moved. Some, I’m
sure, will be pleasantly surprised by its impact and how it will inspire people
for generations to come.”

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