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Inclusivity

Our nation found its soul in honor on these fields of Gettysburg one hundred years ago. We must not lose that soul in dishonor now on the fields of hate.

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson 
Memorial Day, Gettysburg, Pa. 
May 30, 1963

Speaking in Gettysburg on Memorial Day of the 100th year of the battle, Vice President Johnson delivered a thoughtful speech addressing the need for inclusivity and racial reconciliation. 

A son of the South and Confederate ancestry, Johnson stressed the need for healing and civil rights reform in that “we must be about the business of resolving the challenge which confronts us now.” 

Racial issues were not reconciled at Gettysburg. Nor were they resolved by the ending of the Civil War or abolished with the Civil Rights Act, signed by President Johnson in 1964. 

At Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln reminded us that we are a nation “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” One-hundred years later, Vice President Lyndon Johnson reminded us that we still had still “fallen short of assuring freedom to the free.”

There is still “unfinished work” to do in hopes of establishing a “new birth of freedom.”

Let us pray for wise and understanding hearts. Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our nation whole.

President Lyndon B. Johnson
upon signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act

We can, however, take inspiration from those in and around Gettysburg. 

  • In addition to interring Union soldiers in the newly-established Gettysburg National Cemetery, Basil Biggs joined with other African American citizens to form the Sons of Goodwill to purchase land for a cemetery to serve Gettysburg’s African American community and Civil War veterans. The resulting Goodwill Cemetery – now the Lincoln Cemetery – serves as the final resting place for Biggs, many of the town’s earliest black residents and more than 30 veterans of the United States Colored Troops who had been denied burial in the National Cemetery under segregation policies.
  • Colors bearer Joseph H. De Castro of the 19th Massachusetts Infantry became the first Hispanic-American to receive the Medal of Honor when he seized the flag of the 19th Virginia regiment during Pickett’s Charge.
  • Lydia Hamilton Smith hired a horse and wagon and collected supplies from neighbors for the wounded on both sides of the battle.

These lessons remain relevant to us now. 

It’s another way to look at Gettysburg and ourselves. This is Gettysburg Revisited.

Revisit Gettysburg

The home of Abram Bryan and family, the small white house on Hancock Avenue, remains a symbol of inclusivity in Gettysburg.

 

One of a few African-Americans in Adams County in 1863, Bryan owned and worked his farm before fleeing Gettysburg prior to the battle. After the battle, Bryan returned to find his property ransacked and virtually destroyed. He sold his farm in 1868. He remained in Gettysburg and spent the rest of his life working at a nearby hotel.

 

The view from Abram Bryan’s front yard offered a striking contrast between 1863's freedom and inclusivity in Gettysburg and enslavement and division just over the hills to the south.

 

Revisit Gettysburg and explore the sites you may have missed the first time.

Revisit & Reimagine Gettysburg

Revisit Gettysburg and take another look at the sites and messages of inclusion you may have missed the first time:

Gettysburg Women's Memorial

An inclusive tribute to the women who served before, during and after the battle who's contributions “though rarely noted or honored, were immeasurable.”

The memorial features Elizabeth Thorn, who took up the responsibilities as caretaker of the Evergreen Cemetery while her husband was away serving with the Union Army. While six months pregnant, she would begin the grueling task of burying 105 soldiers following the battle.

 

George Spangler Farm & Field Hospital

The site of a Union field hospital where 1,900 wounded soldiers received medical treatment. In spite of the hostilities waging around them, caregivers provided assistance to soldiers from both sides of the battle. 

“Those who wore gray were cared for with our own boys in blue, as they lay side by side in the same tents.”
     - Rebecca Price, volunteer nurse stationed at George Spangler Farm. 

Soldiers' National Cemetery

The site of Lincoln’s address and Johnson’s Memorial Day speech, the cemetery took form through the efforts of many including Basil Biggs.

A free African American veterinarian living in Gettysburg, Biggs along with a crew of free black men disinterred the thousands of Union dead from their temporary graves and provided them a proper burial in the newly-established cemetery.

Veterans from both sides of the battle returned to Gettysburg in 1913 to honor the fallen, reminisce with their friends and extend their hands to their former enemies over fences where they once fired.