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Civil War Era Unit Gathers for Parade, Pictures


(U Street) -- Twenty black men dressed in Civil War era Union blues huddled to stay warm as they awaited a bus that would take them to the parade staging area. They are part of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Company, the unit whose story was memorialized by the movie "Glory."

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(Above, Emmett Bell-Sykes and Gerard Grimes, members of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, pose for photos for passersby in front of the African American Civil War Memorial at the U Street Metro station)

The unit was officially reactivated for the inaugural parade, said Emmett Bell-Sykes, a second sergeant with the volunteer unit. He was outside the metro with First Sgt. Gerard-Grimes. "We don't have a military background we're history teachers," said Bell-Sykes, 35.

They stood in front of the Civil War Memorial at U Street, posing for photos for passersby. They put their rifles in march position on their shoulders and did not smile.

Marching in the parade of the country's first black president is "a privilege and an honor," said Grimes, 49.

Bell-Sykes interjected, "To honor our fore bearers who survived slavery, legalized racism, to honor this country making amends to come together and unify."

-- Nikita Stewart

By Washington Post Editors  |  January 20, 2009; 10:45 AM ET  | Category:  Celebrities
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