This is a recording of a presentation by author Ric Murphy hosted by the Arlington Historical Society on November 12, 2020.
The establishment of Arlington National Cemetery is embedded in the internal conflict over America’s original sin: slavery that resulted in the Civil War. From its beginnings, the property served as a pauper’s cemetery for men too poor to be returned to their families. Some of the very first war dead to be buried there include over 1,500 men who served in the United States Colored Troops and more than 3,800 former slaves are interred in Section 27, the property’s original cemetery.
The causes for the rising number of war and civilian dead buried at Arlington during the height of the Civil War have striking similarities faced by American communities today because of a global COVID-19 pandemic.
In his book Section 27 and Freedman’s Village in Arlington National Cemetery: The African American History of America’s Most Hallowed Ground, author and historian Ric Murphy shares his perspective on how these similarities gave rise to our nation’s most hallowed ground Arlington National Cemetery. This recent book was the winner of the Phyllis Wheatley Book Award. The award, named for the first published African-American female writer, is given to literary work that transcends culture, boundary, and perception.
Ric Murphy is the National Vice President for History for the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. An award-winning author, he explores the rich tapestry of African American history by weaving together the personal and heroic stories of amazing men and women, and their rich and remarkable contributions to American history. His publications include the Arrival of the First Africans in Virginia in 1619 (2020) and the biography of Rear Admiral Larry Chambers, USN: First African American to Command an Aircraft Carrier (2017). He has a Masters degree from Boston University and a Bachelors degree from the University of Massachusetts.
This video runs a little over 51 minutes.