The African American Veterans Monument was revealed Saturday in Buffalo, New York. It is the first of its kind to honor Black veterans and active-duty military service members who served in the Navy, the Air Force, Army, the Coast Guard and the Marines.
The display took six years of planning and fundraising and is located near the large American flag on the edge of the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park. It was commissioned in 2014 by the Black women-led Erie County Chapter of the Links Inc.
The ceremony happened two days after the anniversary of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which was issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862 and provided a date that would mark the end of slavery. It was designed by the late artist Jonathan Casey.
The concrete monument is made up of 12 black pillars measuring at 10 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Each pillar signifies a war or conflict and has a QR code. Visitors are able to scan it to get information about prominent Black soldiers in each conflict.
It describes the importance of Harlem Hellfighters, a unit that trained in the Jim Crow south and then fought as part of a French Army unit in World War I due to segregation. Crispus Attucks, the first man killed in the American Revolutionary War, is also featured.
Organizing committee chairman Warren Galloway told WBFO about how emotional the opening ceremony became. “There was tears. There was joy. A lot of of veterans, especially World War II, they never really talked about being in the service. I know my father never really talked about it at all, but to actually see a name or family member, people were really emotionally affected by it.”