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Documentary preview highlights color on both sides of the fence

Earl Ijames, the Curator of African-American and Community History (NC Museum of History) is working with Carl Russell on the documentary "Colored Confederates and US Colored Troops".  A free preview takes place at Cyclorama on July 10th (7pm)
Earl Ijames, the Curator of African-American and Community History (NC Museum of History) is working with Carl Russell on the documentary "Colored Confederates and US Colored Troops". A free preview takes place at Cyclorama on July 10th (7pm)
Photo credited to Hatchett PR (site:

The Civil War, or the War Between the States.

When these words are mentioned, there are a number of responses that come into play. Some view the time period of 1861-1865 as a time where one part of the country fought to maintain its way of life, its culture, and its economic system based on the "exchange" system started in the early 1600's in which its "employees", who are mostly people of color (African descent), in general are cut off from their roots in order to work 12 hour days up to 6 days a week. The other part of the country fought to preserve the Union, along with making sure that the country would not make itself vulnerable to outside nations who are laying in wait for the United States to tear itself apart.

150 years later, there is a tremendous amount of debate and discussion of the social, economic, and political impact of the Civil War. One topic focuses on the role of African-Americans, as the issue of slavery is a key part as to why the war even takes place. While movies such as Glory showcase the presence, rejection, and gradual acceptance of African-Americans who fight on the side of the Union, there's a broader topic that filmakers Earl Ijames and Carl Russell are taking on that is sure to spark some intense and needed conversation about the war and its residual impact on American society.

On Thursday, July 10th, at 7pm at Cyclorama, the filmakers are having a sneak peak of their new documentary. Entitled Colored Confederates and US Colored Troops, the title alone should invoke multiple levels of interest and questions in revisiting, researching, and taking a broader look at the influence of the aforementioned segment of the community and its larger societal impact.

The impetus for taking on a project gained traction in 2005. Ijames, who is the Curator of African-American and Community History (at the North Carolina Museum of History), happens to have a chance meeting with 84 year old Mattie Clyburn-Rice. Ms. Rice is directed to the building in error in her efforts to secure her birth certificate. Through conversations with her, Ijames is able to unearth evidence indicating that African-Americans have a presence, including roles of significance, within the Confederacy.

Through additional years of research, Ijames, along with his brother (Mr. Russell) are able to come across information and evidence which validates their "hunch" about a part of the history of Civil-War era African-Americans. In short, in efforts to secure their freedom upon the war's conclusion, there is considerable information confirming that they aligned themselves with both the Union and the Confederacy, along with playing some significant roles with both parties.

Having the event at Cyclorama is an ideal fit. Given the museum's opening in 1921 and its broad array of paintings, uniforms, guns and artillery, maps, and other artifacts, including the Texas (the locomotive which won the Civil War adventure "The Great Locomotive Race"), having a discussion of this nature given its juxtaposition with the Civil War should provide the framework for an engaging evening for all to partake of.

The event is free and open to the public.

The adage "you learn something new every day" is clearly applicable in this case, as many may not have been aware of the presence of African-Americans on both side of the proverbial fence. Thanks to the work of Ijames and Russell, the Crest Entertainment and Film produced documentary provides those in the immediate and larger community an opportunity to watch, listen, learn, engage, analyze, and note the impact and after-effects of the war, including the demographics that shape them.

The July 10th preview is an opportunity to review and see where color has and is playing a part in the larger social, political, and economic aftermath of a war that nearly destroys the country. Instead of being among "those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it", individuals and collectives within the immediate and larger community are able to potentially able to do something different for the greater good.

Mark and "color" it in your calendars.

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