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Norfolk memorial honors Black Union soldiers who fought in Civil War

Standing in the city's West Point Cemetery, the monument is a unique tribute to Black Union veterans, likely the only one in the South, with a fascinating history.

NORFOLK, Va. — In the heart of Norfolk, in a state that seceded from the Union, stands a memorial to Black Union soldiers who fought against slavery.

“These people distinguished themselves and served their country faithfully," said Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, a historian at Norfolk State University. "It's an important beacon."

On top of the monument stands Sergeant William Carney, the first Black Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, a Norfolk native who escaped through the underground railroad in the 1850s.

Nearby, the headstones of 58 Black soldiers, mostly Union veterans from the Civil War. Some names are fading away.

You don’t find other monuments like this one in the South. It’s a product of the work of James Fuller, Norfolk’s first Black city councilman in the late 1800s.

Fuller's grave is a short walk from the monument.

“He wanted to have that monument placed where people would come to remember, to reflect," Newby-Alexander said. 

The monument and West Point Cemetery are next to Norfolk’s Elmwood Cemetery, where Confederate soldiers are buried and where the city council will likely move the downtown Confederate monument.

Newby-Alexander said the Black Union veteran memorial serves as a touchstone.

“Those places of memorial are so important, and so important for our broader community to know about this, because it enlarges all of us to know our shared history," she said.

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