Black Experience

Local Black World War I Veterans Remembered During Black History Month

Four Black Prince George's Residents Included on Peace Cross Memorial

A 40-foot-tall monument standing at the intersections of Bladensburg Road, Baltimore Avenue, and Annapolis Road in Bladensburg, Maryland, serves as a reminder of the 49 residents who died in World War I. This monument, commonly referred to as the Peace Cross, is owned by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Department of Parks and Recreation in Prince George’s County which has embarked on a mission to restore it.

In recognition of Black History Month, the Department is also paying homage to the four African Americans who were among the lives lost in World War I. Their names, etched like the others, are displayed on this structure that was dedicated in 1925 in the town of Bladensburg by Gold Star Mothers and The American Legion.

These four Black men fought in a war during a time when even in their own country, equality didn’t exist. They gave their lives in their call of duty to the United States and this historic monument stands in memory of their sacrifice as well as their fellow soldiers. The African Americans highlighted on the Peace Cross are:

Clarence Butler, (4/14/1890-10/6/1918), a farmer with his father in Nottingham, Md.

James Cooper, (3/1/1897 – 10/5/1918), a farmer in Aquasco, Md.

John Seaburn, (10/27/1897 – 10/4/1918), grew up in what is now North Brentwood, Md.

Benjamin Thompson, (1/11/1894 – 10/13/1918), was born in Waldorf, Md., and worked for himself as a farmer.

The Peace Cross is now in need of extensive restoration and refurbishment. Department Resource Development Officer Tracy Wright stated, “Funds are needed to begin this vital endeavor. To address the need, the Department of Parks and Recreation is fundraising to repair the Peace Cross. We encourage the community to join us and help support the restoration of this historical monument which honors our fallen Black heroes.”

Maryland state Sen. Malcolm Augustine stated, “As we honor the African-Americans memorialized on the Bladensburg WWI Memorial, commonly known as the Peace Cross, during Black History month, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our thanks by contributing to the restoration of the Memorial.  A worthy tribute to a worthy cause.”

Renee Green, Executive Producer of the Save the Peace Cross documentary, stated “Now that we Saved the Peace Cross, we need to restore it and rededicate it as a tribute to the 49 fallen soldiers, including 4 African American men listed on the Peace Cross. Gold Star mothers listed everyone on the Peace Cross alphabetically to promote unity, instead of separating the 4 African American men. Donate today to restore this beloved memorial.”

Commander Mike Moore of the Greenbelt American Legion Post 136 expressed strong support for restoring the Peace Cross. “The much-needed resources we are trying to raise will serve to keep alive the memory of those 49 Prince George’s County veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. In 1919, Gold Star Mothers, in an act of inclusion and equality, chose to list the names on the memorial in alphabetical order without regard to race. As a result, there are four Black Men listed on the Peace Cross. Their service and sacrifice should be especially remembered during the celebration of Black History Month.”

The Peace Cross memorial was constructed in 1919 in honor of World War I servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. On June 19, 2019, in a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 to allow a veteran’s memorial cross to continue to stand on public land in Maryland. Over the years, the monument has fallen into disrepair and is in need of maintenance. Help restore this historic landmark and give to a noble cause by donating to the Peace Cross today. Every donation will go directly towards the memorial’s restoration. To participate in the campaign, visit www.pgparks.com/4890/Friends-of-the-Parks.

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