DVIDS – News – African-American War of Independence hero’s legacy of diversity honored at Detroit tombstone unveiling


DETROIT – A three-volley rifle salute, tap dance, and presentation of an American flag to next of kin or family representative: these rituals are usually performed at the funeral services of nearly all American veterans like symbol of their faithful and devoted service.

On Saturday, these honors were paid for the first time at the grave of Pvt. James Robinson, hero of the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 decorated by the Marquis de Lafayette at the Battle of Yorktown. Robinson died in 1868 and had since remained under an indescribable marker that belied his incredible story and the mark he left in history. The Michigan Society of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Michigan Society of the War of 1812 also dedicated an engraved headstone on Saturday that symbolizes the wars in which Robinson fought.

Major-General Leonard Isabelle, Assistant Adjutant General, Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, delivered remarks at the ceremony, held at Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit and attended by approximately 150 local dignitaries representing service organizations and citizens.

“Pvt. Robinson’s military accomplishments are extremely impressive,” Isabelle said. “But they are even more remarkable given that he risked his life to secure the freedom of a young nation that did not recognize his right to freedom. personal freedom. “

According to Elijah Shalis, historian and fellow of the Michigan Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, Robinson was born into slavery in 1753. He fought in both wars with the belief that by doing so he would earn the right to live as a free American. This promise was not kept and Robinson was forced to wait decades for freedom.

Documents, including a memoir dictated by Robinson in 1858, indicate that he led a charge against a British fortification at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, single-handedly killing three enemy soldiers. It was for this feat that the Allied French commander, General Marquis de Lafayette, presented Robinson with a gold medal for bravery.

A native of Maryland, Robinson was later sold to a plantation owner in Louisiana. At the age of 61, he fought in the Battle of New Orleans where he lost his left index finger. He was not granted his freedom until the 1830s and then moved to Detroit, which became his adopted hometown. Robinson would have lived to the remarkable age of 115.

“Robinson died in 1868, so this is an event that has been brewing for 151 years,” Shalis said. “He was one of the most distinguished African-American veterans, if not the most distinguished of the wars in which he served.”

In addition to many Detroit city officials, Saturday’s ceremony was also attended by Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan’s 13th Congressional District.

“One of the amazing things that can be done in Congress is to talk about those who have honored and served our country on the Congress file,” Talib said. “We all fight for our communities in different ways, but it’s always about giving back. To speak recently in the Congressional Record of Pvt. Robinson as a person from a different generation who fought for us, uplifting his incredible heritage … was a very humbling experience.

While Robinson’s honors on Saturday are appropriate, the real impact of his service can be measured in other, more substantial ways in the U.S. military today.

“The heroism of Pvt. Robinson has been honored with medals and honors throughout his life, ”said Isabelle. “However, I believe his true legacy lies in the long list of African American servicemen who have followed in his footsteps – and in an army today that values ​​diversity and welcomes all Americans who wish to serve.”

Date taken: 23.06.2019
Date posted: 23.06.2019 09:51
Story ID: 328819
Site: DETROIT, MI, United States

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