Civil War Cast Recalls Roots of Diversity
February 21, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Feb. 22, 2008) - Guests to the Pentagon Feb. 26 are in for a surprise - a performance by key players in the Civil War, including Gen. Ulysses Grant, in commemoration of African-American History Month.
In addition to an address by Brig. Gen. Belinda Pinckney, head of the Army's new Diversity Task Force, there will be a performance of "Sabers and Roses," focusing on the historical importance of the Civil War on diversity in the United States. The program starts at 10 a.m. in the Pentagon Auditorium and is free.
Sabers and Roses, a musical presentation, recognizes the Civil War as laying the groundwork for cultural diversity. The show features a mixture of period music, rock and hip-hop, in order to reach a broad audience, according to Kevin Dolan, executive producer.
"The best way to reach young people who 'can't stand history' is to produce a mainstream entertainment project with a fascinating story line about the Civil War," Dolan said. "Sabers and Roses shows how Americans who just 150 years ago were trying to kill each other over ideas and ideals came together as one country dedicated to the notion that all men are created equal."
The performance will feature two historians, Larry Clowers and his wife Constance, portraying General and President Ulysses Grant and his wife, Julia Boggs Dent. The Grants' history is closely intertwined with African-American history over the course of the civil war.
"Ulysses became aware of the slave issue when his armies advanced into the South," Larry Clowers explained. "Thousands upon thousands of slaves seeking freedom sought the protection of the Union Army. Grant saw the potential in the people and organized paid work units as well as using African Americans in military units during the Vicksburg Campaign in 1863."
Though the civil war ended well over a century ago, Dolan believes the lessons learned from it are timeless.
"The effort of the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War in their quest for freedom is one of the most inspiring stories in human history," Dolan said. "They fought and died so that their descendants would live in freedom rather than slavery. Our Civil War effectively ended slavery worldwide."
Virginia Harrison, who works in the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity, coordinated the program. She agrees with Kevin Dolan that this type of production will have a bigger impact than a traditional lecture would.
"[Theatrical plays are] educational and last longer in your memory than just hearing about the Civil War," Harrison said.
The show is created by Landon House Productions out of Urbana, Md. The company specializes in film, television, music and multi-media productions about the Civil war. In addition to the performance at the Pentagon, there will be an extended performance at Fort Belvoir's Wallace Theater Feb. 22, following a town hall meeting. It is sponsored by Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.
Harrison said she hopes the program will encourage spectators to take what they've learned and apply in their daily work life.
"It is important for each ethnic/cultural group to learn about each other," Harrison said, "to enhance diversity in the workplace."