|The grave of Henry Gooden, a private in Company C, 127th U.S.C.T. |
Photo by the author.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.To many in Lincoln's audience that day, and to those who read his words in newspapers in the days and weeks after, the "unfinished work" clearly referenced the end of the war and reunification. Those with keener insight perhaps interpreted "a new birth of freedom" as support for the complete eradication of the system of slavery. Yet the Gettysburg Address lives on in American memory because its message still speaks to us, much like Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. Today, while we recognize Jefferson's self-evident truths as the founding principles of our nation, we can always look to Lincoln's address as a call to action to complete the unfinished work remaining to reach those lofty truths.
|Gettysburg TimesNovember 13, 1936|
Gooden died on August 3, 1876. Initially buried in the Alms House Cemetery, he was reburied in the National Cemetery on November 8, 1884. His presence there was an anomaly in a period of segregated cemeteries. Though a few black veterans from more recent wars were interred in the National Cemetery, Gooden remained the only black Civil War veteran in the cemetery until 1936, when Charles H. Parker joined him.
Parker served in Company F of the 3rd USCT, and died on July 2, 1876. His remains originally rested at Yellow Hill Cemetery north of Gettysburg, and his grave was rediscovered in the 1930s at the neglected cemetery by Dr. Henry Stewart, who was conducting a graves survey for the Gettysburg camp of the Sons of Union Veterans. Parker was moved to the National Cemetery in November, 1936. Today, Parker and Gooden remain the only black Civil War veterans buried in the National Cemetery.
|Lincoln Cemetery. Photo by Author|
May 29, 1933
After a creditable parade in which a number of visiting organizations participated, colored residents of Gettysburg paid fitting tribute to the memory of their soldier dead in Goodwill cemetery Sunday afternoon. A threatening rain held off until the exercises were concluded. The principle speaker for the occasion, Edward W. Henry, Philadelphia magistrate, delivered a forceful address in which he called upon colored citizens everywhere to combat the influences of communism, pointing to the results of that system in Russia, Germany, Spain and Mexico. He urged colored residents to live for and by the principles laid down by the constitution of the United States and Lincoln's proclamation of emancipation.The procession to the cemetery itself included three bands and a group of African American school children. Upon arriving at the cemetery, the Gettysburg Boys' Band played a dirge, and the school children strewed flowers over the graves. Similar ceremonies continued at least through the 1960s.
June 1, 1992
In the years since, community members have continued these remembrances, and have worked hard to keep the cemetery in good condition. The cemetery has been fenced in and the same "Silence and Respect" signs that dot the National Cemetery are now posted.
Today the gates of Lincoln Cemetery are often locked - I have not yet made it inside those gates. Even so, I find that this out-of-the-way spot speaks so strongly to the "unfinished work" of Lincoln's Gettysburg address, and the struggles of the past 150 years (as well as those struggles that continue) for freedom and equality.