How 1 Black Civil War Reenactor From Oklahoma Discovered His Great-Great-Grandfather Was a Union Soldier
Calvin Osborne says his great-great-grandfather, William Lacy, had been enslaved but escaped from Lacy Springs, Alabama, before fighting in the Civil War.
Calvin Osborne decided three decades ago that other people needed to know important history, so he began dressing up and performing as a Civil War re-enactor.
With a musket and a uniform, Calvin tells modern audiences about the role of Black soldiers fighting with the Union army during the American Civil War.
"They were moved by fighting for freedom,” he said. “They were moved by the possibility that this institution of slavery might never end.”
Calvin said he’s always been interested in the Civil War, but the 1989 film “Glory,” which depicts the first Black regiment to fight for the Union, was a true inspiration.
“That movie set in motion, a search by me, for the truth about Black men in the Civil War," he said.
It turns out, Calvin didn’t look much further for inspiration than his own family tree. His great-great-grandfather, William Lacy, once donned the same blue uniform he wears today.
“He was a runaway slave from a place called Lacy Springs, Alabama,” Calvin said. “At that time, he's only 16 years old.”
There are no surviving photographs of William Lacy, as Calvin found while tracing his genealogy last year. Even so, finding out about his ancestors validated his life’s work, he said.
“It validated the 28 years that I've been re-enacting," Calvin said. "When I say ‘Let me tell you about the Black men in the Civil War,’ I can now say, ‘let me tell you about my great-great-grandfather in the Civil War.’”
Calvin reenacts the Civil War out of love for history. And now, family.
“This is a way for me to serve,” he said. “To make people know that people like William Lacy actually fought to free themselves.”
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