Hollywood vs. History: Glory
One of the first African American units to fight for the North during the Civil War, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry and its commander, Col. Robert Gould Shaw, gained almost mythical stature in leading a brave but failed assault on Confederate-held Fort Wagner near Charleston, South Carolina, in July 1863.
Shaw and 280 of his men were killed, but their valor helped inspire nearly 200,000 additional Black soldiers to enlist before the end of the war. The 54th was memorialized more than a century later in Glory, one of the most highly acclaimed Civil War films ever made, starring Matthew Broderick and Denzel Washington (who earned a best supporting actor Oscar).
Harry S. Laver of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College uses clips from the 1989 movie in assessing its historical accuracy – what rings true and where artistic liberties were taken, from the depiction of the Harvard-educated Shaw and his men to the portrayal of brutal Civil War battle. The presentation is part of the Library’s Hollywood vs. History series in partnership with the Army Command and General Staff College. It precedes the nation’s Juneteenth observance on June 19. Laver, a professor in the college’s Department of Military History, holds a doctorate in history from the University of Kentucky. He is the author of two books, The Leadership of Ulysses S. Grant: A General Who Will Fight and Citizens More than Soldiers: The Kentucky Militia and Society in the Early Republic. The Hollywood vs. History series is made possible by a generous gift from the Jerry Rosenblum Trust.