“A New Birth of Freedom”
A collaboration of the NAACP, Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, Soldiers Home Foundation, and the Citizens of Milwaukee and Their Representatives

The NAACP National Convention In Milwaukee July 2005 can make a substantial contribution to the renaissance of its host city by sponsoring a tribute to Wisconsin and all American military personnel on the grounds of the National Soldiers Home Historic District.

Wood National Cemetery is one of the largest in the United States. Forty three thousand soldiers are buried here from every conflict except the Revolutionary War. Included are members of the 54th Massachusetts, Buffalo Soldiers, and, most recently, Adrian Soltau, a 21-year-0ld Marine, who died in an explosion in Iraq on September 13,2004. Many African American and other soldiers of color are unidentified.

The National Soldiers Home Historic District is linked to President Abraham Lincoln, who signed the Soldiers Home legislation on March 3, 1865 , one of the last pieces of legislation he signed before his assassination. The passage made possible locating one of three original branches of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Milwaukee.

The National Soldiers Home Historic District on 90 acres of land boasts the Ward Memorial Theater, the Home Chapel, Wood National Cemetery, Old Main, Wadsworth Library, and 30 residential and administrative buildings.

The National Home was established in 1867, and as with all such facilities, was developed initially to support post-Civil War “Volunteer” unpaid military personnel, “wounded/disabled” military only, by providing a health care facility (hospital), residential quarters, dining halls, entertainment facilities (theater), a chapel, burial services and cemetery. Training and employment services, as well as government established “enterprises” — factories, manufacturing enterprises (printing, etc.), were established and co-located on the site. Those enteprises also provided employment. The old soldiers homes were “integrated” — separate but equal living, dining facilities, etc.

In his many writing and speeches and most notably in the “I Have a Dream” address, Dr. Martin Luther King echoed a challenge given by President Lincoln to all Americans to complete “the unfinished work” as expresed at Gettysburg dedication November 19, 1863. Each man referred to the words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as source for promises to keep.


  • To dramatize the vision passed from President Lincoln to Dr. King during a dedication at the Soldiers Home, with the presence of NAACP leadership, delegates, local and national military personnel, descendants, civil rights leaders that could include Secretary Colin Powell, Shoshona Johnson, veterans, current service men and women, members of Dr. King’s family, the governor and senators of Wisconsin, elected officials, south eastern Wisconsin residents, business leaders, entrepreneurs, educators, health and social service providers, neighborhood associations, school children and their families, to inform and inspire hope.

  • To access the oral history and identity of African Americans and other minority veterans and service men and women from friends, neighbors, family, descendants, and organizations.

  • To retell those histories to broader audiences, wherever Wisconsinites and others retrieve information that edifies, encourages, and shows respect.

  • To provide African Americans and other minorities a social and economic chance for training, legal redress,, jobs, ventures, housing, and ways to contribute.

  • To create a symbolic act that confers honor and dignity.

  • To give an occasion to those previously unborn or unprepared to particiapte in a modern day civil rights demonstration collectively affirming just behavior.

  • To achieve spiritual and economic growth in Milwaukee and model solutions to issues important for the broader civil society.




Last edited by g. Based on work by cp and c.  Page last modified on April 25, 2005

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