On July 18, 1863, on Morris Island, near Charleston, S.C., the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, a Union regiment composed entirely of free African American men, began their assault on Fort Wagner, a Confederate stronghold. After the war, a sergeant of the 54th, William Harvey Carney, became the first African American awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, for taking up the fallen Union flag and carrying it to the fort’s walls. Col. Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of the regiment, was killed in the charge, along with 116 of his men. Shaw, an abolitionist born to a prominent Boston family, had been recruited by Massachusetts Gov. John Andrew to raise and command the all-black regiment, the first of its kind in the Civil War.
Shortly after the battle, the printing firm of Currier and Ives commemorated the 54th’s charge, portraying black soldiers carrying the Union flag over the fort’s ramparts and into the Confederate phalanx. One of the few surviving copies of this print is now at the Gilder Lehrman Collection in New York City. To view it and to learn more about the Civil War era, visit www.gilderlehrman.org.
James G. Basker, President
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
I enjoyed the Banner’s recent articles on Alzheimer’s disease and African Americans (Be Healthy, July 3, 2008). Thanks to you and those who opened up their lives we can begin to see that Alzheimer’s disease does in fact have an impact on our community.
I would also like to share a little-known black history fact about Alzheimer’s disease. You wrote about how Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor, is credited with discovering the disease that bears his name. What many people don’t know is that the first known black psychiatrist in America has a connection to Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, from Massachusetts, worked with Alzheimer from 1904 until returning home in 1912. In fact, Fuller’s work was so respected that the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorders published his paper on the ninth reported case of Alzheimer’s disease in 1912.
Fuller, whose family still resides in Massachusetts, also taught at Boston University School of Medicine for 34 years. As well as having a community mental health center in Roxbury named after him, in 1972, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the Black Psychiatrists of America established the Solomon Carter Fuller Institute. In 1975, the APA’s Black Caucus also introduced the Solomon Carter Fuller Award.
Thanks for helping shed more light on what too many of us believe is just normal aging or simple memory loss.
Manager of Safety Services and Community Programs
Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter