It was a special tribute in recognition of this Juneteenth Day, honoring those who died to end slavery. 154 years ago, hundreds of African-American Union soldiers were brutally killed in the Fort Pillow massacre.
Their remains are buried at the Memphis National Cemetery. That’s where a historical marker was unveiled Tuesday to keep their memory alive.
It was a special day, full of sentimentality for the dozens of people who gathered at the Memphis National Cemetery. They say displaying a marker will help tell the story of ending slavery.
Retired Navy chief, Norris Thomas said, “This was a day that was set aside to honor the men that fought and died at Fort Pillow.”
For Thomas, the Fort Pillow massacre is hard to think about.
“My great, great, grandfather, his name is Peter Williams. He was actually a survivor of the Fort Pillow massacre,” said Thomas.
Thomas’ great, great, grandfather was a survivor, but hundreds of others weren’t so lucky. African American union soldiers were brutally killed. They sacrificed their lives for freedom.
“Without this. I could’ve been born into slavery,” Thomas said.
Callie Herd, VP of WeAllBe Group, Inc. said, “We wanted to create something that was not pointing fingers at people.”
Herd helped organize the ceremony where a permanent marker was placed for the hundreds of African American soldiers buried there.
“When you read it yourself, you feel it on your own naturally,” Herd said.
Herd says the marker was placed to tell a story and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
“There were people willing to die so that they could end slavery,” Herd said. “I can’t blame the ancestors for something done in the past, I can only talk about it,” said Herd.
A photograph of Norris Thomas’ great, great, grandfather will also be displayed.
Of the hundreds of soldiers, he is the only known soldier to have a photo.