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2023 CA State Capitol Juneteenth Celebration Honors US Colored Troops - US Civil War

by Khubaka, Michael Harris (blackagriculture [at]
Our unique journey from slavery to freedom in California remains an open secret. Honoring our "hidden figures" who served our Armed Forces, enslaved and free, before, during and after the US Civil War opens a new chapter in California History.
S. 273: United States Colored Troops Congressional Gold Medal Act

February 7, 2023

Mr. Booker introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

To posthumously award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the African Americans who served with Union forces during the Civil War, in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service.

1.Short title
This Act may be cited as the United States Colored Troops Congressional Gold Medal Act.

2.Findings Congress finds the following:

(1) Since the Colonial Era, African Americans have served the United States in times of war.

(2) During the Civil War, approximately 200,000 African-American men served in the Union Army and 19,000 African-American men served in the Union Navy.

(3) During the Civil War, African-American women were not allowed to formally enlist as soldiers or sailors, though they served as nurses, cooks, spies, and scouts for the Union Army and the Union Navy.

(4) While African-American men served in the Navy since its establishment, there was resistance to enlisting them to take up arms for the Union Army at the start of the Civil War.

(5) As the Civil War dragged on, President Lincoln broke from the previous policy of his administration and determined that liberating enslaved persons was a military necessity absolutely essential for the salvation of the Union.

(6) The Act entitled An Act to suppress insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes, approved July 17, 1862 (commonly known as the Second Confiscation Act) (12 Stat. 589; chapter 195), and the Act of July 17, 1862 (commonly known as the Military Act of 1862) (12 Stat. 597; chapter 201), were the first official authorizations to employ African Americans in the Union Army.

(7) It was not until January 1, 1863, the effective date of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln, that the Union Army was ordered to receive African-American men.

(8) On May 22, 1863, the United States War Department issued General Order Number 143, which established the Bureau of Colored Troops for the recruitment and organization of regiments of the Union Army composed of African-American men, called the United States Colored Troops (referred to in this section as USCT).

(9) Leaders such as Frederick Douglass encouraged African Americans to enlist to advance the cause of citizenship. Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on [E]arth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship., wrote Douglass.

(10) African-American sailors constituted a significant segment of the Union Navy, making up 20 percent of the total enlisted force of the Navy.

(11) Although there were rank restrictions on African Americans in the Navy before the Civil War, this policy changed after the establishment of the USCT, when the Union Navy started to compete with the Union Army for enlistment of African Americans.

(12) Yet, in practice, most African Americans could not advance beyond lowest ranks of boy and landsman.

(13) African-American soldiers and sailors served with distinction, honor, and bravery amid racial discrimination and adverse circumstances, including the risk of enslavement and torture if captured.

(14) Eighteen members of the USCT and 8 African-American sailors were awarded the Medal of Honor, the highest honor in the United States for bravery in combat.

(15) For generations after the Civil War, the contributions of African Americans in the Civil War were excluded from historical memory.

(16) Public Law No. 102–412 (106 Stat. 2104) authorized the establishment of a memorial on Federal land in the District of Columbia to honor African Americans who served with Union forces during the Civil War.

(17) This memorial, featuring a bronze statue of USCT soldiers, an African-American sailor and family, is surrounded by the Wall of Honor, which lists the names of the members of the USCT.

(18) The African American Civil War Museum is located in the District of Columbia.

(19) Patriots and heroes who rose in service to a Nation that would not fully recognize them, the African Americans who served the Union during the Civil War deserve our recognition for their contributions to the grant of emancipation and citizenship for nearly 4,000,000 enslaved people and the preservation of the Union.

3.Congressional Gold Medal
(a)Presentation authorized The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall make appropriate arrangements for the posthumous presentation, on behalf of Congress, of a gold medal of appropriate design to the African Americans who served with Union forces during the Civil War, collectively, in recognition of their bravery and outstanding service during the Civil War.

(b)Design and Striking
For the purposes of the presentation referred to in subsection (a), the Secretary of the Treasury (hereafter in this Act referred to as the Secretary) shall strike a gold medal with suitable emblems, devices, and inscriptions, to be determined by the Secretary.

(c)Smithsonian Institution

(1) In general
Following the award of the gold medal under subsection (a), the gold medal shall be given to the Smithsonian Institution, where the medal shall be available for display as appropriate and made available for research.

(2) Sense of Congress
It is the sense of Congress that the Smithsonian Institution should make the gold medal received under paragraph (1) available for display elsewhere, particularly at appropriate locations associated with the United States Colored Troops.

4. Duplicate medals
The Secretary may strike and sell duplicates in bronze of the gold medal struck pursuant to section 3 at a price sufficient to cover the cost thereof, including labor, materials, dies, use of machinery, and overhead expenses.

5. Status of medals
(a) National medals
The medals struck pursuant to this Act are national medals for purposes of chapter 51 of title 31, United States Code.

(b) Numismatic items
For purposes of section 5134 of title 31, United States Code, all medals struck under this Act shall be considered to be numismatic items.

6. Authority to use fund amounts; proceeds of sale
(a)Authority To use fund amounts
There is authorized to be charged against the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund such amounts as may be necessary to pay for the costs of the medals struck under this Act.

(b)Proceeds of sale
Amounts received from the sale of duplicate bronze medals authorized under section 4 shall be deposited into the United States Mint Public Enterprise Fund.
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