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The movie “Glory” tells the history and the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. It became the first black regiment to fight for the North in the Civil War. The Regiment was made up of black soldiers – some were Northern freemen, some were escaped slaves. The leader was General Robert Gould Shaw, the son of Boston abolitionists. The men of the 54th Regiment proved themselves worthy of the freedom for which they fighting, and the respect of their fellow white soldiers.
“Glory” is told mainly through the eyes of Shaw, played by Matthew Broderick. At the beginning of the movie, Shaw is fighting in a battle, and manages to survive, despite heavy Union losses. He is horrified with the violence of the war, and returns home to recover from his wounds. Shaw is recruited to lead the newly formed black regiment. Although he has grown up and still retained his abolitionist opinions, he still has doubts about the capability of black troops.
The 54th Infantry was comprised of a very diverse group of men. An older gentleman, John Rawlins (played by Morgan Freeman), is the fatherly-type man of the group. He watches out for the others. Another man, Trip (Denzel Washington), is an escaped slave. Trip is a very vindictive young man – he is disrespectful, even to his own comrades. Another character, Thomas, also referred to as “Snowflake”, is a well-educated, free black man. At one point, Tripp calls Thomas a “nigger”, in response to Thomas’ quiet, respectful and educated demeanor. Meanwhile, Rawlins replied to him, “don’t forget where you came from, boy, because if you can call him a nigger, then you must be one too.”
During the civil war, white soldiers were paid wages of thirteen dollars per hour. When it came time to pay the black soldiers, they received a wage of only ten dollars. The men realize this is because of their skin color, and wonder if they should quit the regiment and return home. They want to know why they should be paid less money for the same work. After all, the blacks “march as far, bleed as much, and die as soon”, they argue. They decide to rip up their checks, in protest, but still stay to fight for the Union forces.
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Another important time in the movie is when the men need new shoes. They have completely worn-out their old shoes, and their feet are in a ghastly, disastrous state. Shaw asks his commander-in-chief for a shipment of shoes, but is told repeatedly that rations are in effect for all war supplies, and that Shaw’s regiment was not a priority. After continual delays, Shaw becomes enraged, and threatens to report the man to the war department, for his treatment of the troops, and his own personal conduct in war affairs. Following Shaw’s impressive insistence, the commander finally orders the shipment of shoes.