close up shot of a gold medal on a black surface
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Sen. Cory Booker have reintroduced a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 200,000 Blacks who fought to preserve the Union during the Civil War.

On May 22, 1863, the United States War Department issued General Order Number 143, which established the Bureau of Colored Troops for the recruitment and organization of regiments of the Union Army made up of Black men called the United States Colored Troops. By the war’s end, nearly 179,000 Black men served in the Army and 19,000 fought in the Navy while African American women could not enlist they served as nurses, cooks, spies, and scouts for the Union.

“Hundreds of thousands of African Americans who fought for the Union in the Civil War have largely been left out of the nation’s historical memory, despite having sacrificed their safety, and in many cases their lives,” Norton said Tuesday. “This bill will help correct that wrong and give the descendants of those soldiers the recognition they deserve. Thank you to Senator Booker for partnering with me in this effort, and for introducing the Senate version of the bill so early this Congress.”

Booker said Blacks’ service during the Civil War has been overlooked.

“They served with distinction and honor during incredibly difficult circumstances, including the risk of enslavement and torture if captured,” the New Jersey Democrat said. Now more than 150 years after the end of the war, I am proud to reintroduce bicameral legislation with Representative Norton that would award these heroes the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of their brave and selfless service to our nation.”   

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