The United States Colored Troops Memorial, Nashville National Cemetery

NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Tennessee State University honored its veterans with a special virtual program on Wednesday, despite the pandemic.

The University’s annual Veterans Day program is usually an in-person tradition, but the coronavirus changed that this year, as it has all of TSU’s activities. However, organizers of the virtual program said it was still as spirit-filled as it had been in past years.

“Despite COVID, we were going to maintain those traditions that are important to our culture, our community, and our nation,” said Dr. Evelyn Nettles, associate vice president for Academic Affairs at TSU. “It is important for us to always remember those who served and protected our democracy.”

Lt. Col. Nick Callaway, commander of the University’s AFROTC Detachment 790, was this year’s keynote speaker.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to recognize the veterans who are currently or were previously employed at the university,” said Callaway. “I also applaud TSU for taking the opportunity to recognize the brave men of the United States Colored Troops. Their fight for freedom in our country’s darkest hour should not be forgotten.”

The United States Colored Troops were regiments of African American soldiers raised by the Union Army during the American Civil War.  These troops – who made up about 10 percent of the fighting force in the Union Army – included free African Americans from the North and South, and men who lived their lives as enslaved persons before the war began. By the war’s end, the USCT were a part of the 180,000 African Americans who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War.

“For them, the war was a struggle for liberty, one in which they forced the nation to redefine its notions of freedom and equality under the law,” said Dr. Learotha Williams, a veteran and TSU history professor.

The United States Colored Troops Memorial, located in the Nashville National Cemetery, recognizes the service of the 20,133 black men who voluntarily served in the Union Army in Tennessee during the American Civil War.