Standing in front of the War Memorial Building is The Black Soldier Memorial Statue, a thirteen-foot-tall bronze sculpture commemorating the service of African American soldiers who fought in service of the United States. The sculpture was commissioned and dedicated by the City of Baltimore thanks to an anonymous donor who gifted $30,000 towards the project. Renowned sculptor James E. Lewis designed the statue, which was unveiled on May 30th, 1972.
The Black Soldier Memorial Statue commemorates the sacrifice and patriotism of black soldiers who fought and died to protect the U.S. amidst immense prejudice and racism. The plaque on the base of the sculpture reads, “Dedicated to the Negro heroes of the United States. Sleep in Peace. Slain in thy country’s wars.” Listed on the sash that the soldier holds is a chronicle of the wars that black soldiers have served in since the Revolutionary War. The statue was originally installed on the north side of Battle Monument Park, a site memorializing the defeat of the British. The soldier’s location was the subject of intense debate. Critics argued that the site dishonored the significance of the monument because it was positioned with its back turned to the busy thoroughfare of Calvert Street. Moreover, having the soldier at a site of a single battle failed to recognize the significance of all the battles that African Americans have fought in on behalf of the country. Following several years of debate, the statue was moved in 2007 after several organizations including veterans’ groups and The African American Patriots Consortium urged the city to relocate it to a more prominent location. The statue now stands in front of City Hall and has been the site of several important political addresses, including a speech by President-elect Barack Obama in 2009.