Casey Calls for VA Recognition of African American Civil War Veterans Buried in Segregated Cemeteries

Thousands of African American Civil War Veterans Are Buried in Unrecognized Cemeteries, No List Exists to Identify These Cemeteries / Casey Calls on VA to Keep Public Database of Where These Veterans Are Buried

Casey Calls for VA Recognition of African American Civil War Veterans Buried in Segregated Cemeteries

Washington, DC – Ahead of Memorial Day, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on the Veterans Administration (VA) to take steps to recognize African American Civil War veterans who were laid to rest in segregated burial plots. Thousands of African American Civil War veterans are buried in segregated cemeteries that are often forgotten. Senator Casey requested that the VA to establish a public database of where African American Civil War veterans are buried so the country can begin the process of fully honoring their service.  

“As we approach Memorial Day Weekend, I am calling on the VA to create a database to keep track of cemeteries where African American veterans who fought in the Civil War are buried,” said Senator Casey. “These soldiers volunteered at great personal risk, and it is important that we honor their heroism.  This is an important first step to ensure that we do not lose track of these historic sites, and it is the least we should do to honor these heroes.”

Due to segregation practices during the Civil War, African American soldiers who bravely fought with the Union Army were not usually laid to rest alongside their fellow white soldiers in the cemeteries that were created after battle. Rather, community members often buried African American veterans in unclaimed land, often referred to as “Lincoln Colored Cemeteries” or “Freedmen’s Cemeteries.”  Many of these cemeteries are in poor condition or even lost.

The text of Senator Casey’s letter is below:

The Honorable Steve L. Muro

Under Secretary

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW

Washington DC 20420-0002

Dear Mr. Muro:

Our veteran’s cemeteries commemorate our Nation’s heroes and honor their service in perpetuity.  I know you share my concerns that all veteran cemeteries receive the proper care, maintenance and recognition they each rightfully deserve. I write to you to today to bring your attention to an important issue regarding segregated cemeteries that have served as burial grounds for African American Civil War veterans. 

Unfortunately, due to the segregation practices during the Civil War, African American soldiers who bravely fought with the Union Army were not laid to rest alongside their fellow white soldiers in the cemeteries that were created after battle. Rather, community members often buried African American veterans in unclaimed land, often referred to as “Lincoln Colored Cemeteries” or “Freedmen’s Cemeteries.”  Many of these cemeteries are in poor condition or even lost.

I am writing to ask that the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) establish a comprehensive list of cemeteries where African American Civil War soldiers are buried.  This is an important step to ensure that we do not lose track of these historic sites and the least we can do to honor the service of these heroes.

November 19, 2013 marked the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  I believe that we must do more to bring honor to the African American soldiers who served in the Civil War.   

Thank you for your assistance in this important matter. I look forward to working with you on this issue.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator

 

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