February is Black History Month. Though many may not realize it, Gettysburg has been home to many Blacks whose notable historical contributions and milestones often go unnoticed in the history books.
A stroll through Lincoln Cemetery will reveal that Gettysburg is also the final resting place for many African American citizens and Civil War veterans who, in keeping with the laws of the day, were denied the honor of being buried in the National Cemetery. There are around 30 members of U.S. Colored Troops buried in Lincoln Cemetery. Some of these notable men include Isaac Buckmaster, who served in the 8th U.S. Colored Troops, Lloyd Watts, who was promoted to Sargent and helped to defend Washington, D.C. from Confederate forces, and several others. Other residents buried at Lincoln Cemetery, who were not veterans, include people like Abraham Bryan, a farmer in Gettysburg who left his land during the battle. During Pickett’s Charge his land was occupied by Union forces and, after the battle, the government paid Bryan $15 for damages. You can learn more about the Lincoln Cemetery by clicking this link.
A few years ago members of Gettysburg’s small Black community got together to establish a museum that reflects on the heritage and contributions of Gettysburg’s Black residents through history. Gettysburg’s Black residency can be traced all the way back to the late 1700s when Africans were brought to the community for slave labor. Gettysburg also became home to many settling free Blacks over time. In fact, most people do not know that during the Civil War, approximately 180 African Americans living within 10 miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line lived as free men and women.
The mission behind Gettysburg’s Black History Museum Visitor Center is to preserve, inspire, and educate the public on Gettysburg’s Black heritage and history, bringing to light stories and accounts not often publicized. Though the museum includes Civil War history, it also sheds light on the total encompassment of African American recognition and struggles through time, starting with the earliest Black settlers to those who lived and struggled with discrimination even after the Civil War was long over. Founding residents have spent years collecting and collaborating photographs, artifacts, and personal family mementoes and accounts to be included in this museum.
Come discover Gettysburg’s Black history and heritage, and visit the Black History Museum Visitor Center. The museum is located at 777 Balrtimore Pike #102, Old Gettysburg Village, Gettysburg, PA 17325. For more information, call 855-804-8884 or click here.