– Back in 1962, Frank Smith Jr. left Morehouse College in Atlanta and went to Mississippi as a civil rights activist with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In Holly Springs, he met a man who turned out to be the descendant of an African American Civil War veteran.
“I found it ironic that a guy whose grandfather had fought to end slavery and preserve the Union was still being treated like a second-class citizen, not even allowed to vote,” Smith told me recently. “So I started reading about the soldiers.”
A seed was planted that would become the African American Civil War Museum and Memorial, which Smith founded in Washington in 1998. On Monday, nearly 50 years after that chance encounter in Mississippi, he’ll preside over the dedication of the museum’s expansion into a renovated school building at 1925 Vermont Ave. NW. It is the largest museum of its kind in the country and the only national memorial to black soldiers who fought in the Civil War.