The Graduate Center - City University of New York

Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment

An African-American businessman, Joshua Benton Smith, initiated the call for a memorial to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, commander of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in 1865. Smith formed a committee of prominent Bostonians, including abolitionist senator Charles Sumner, to raise funds. In 1883, Augustus Saint-Gaudens was given the commission to sculpt the memorial and he spent fourteen years creating the bronze relief. His realistic depiction of African-American soldiers was unique for public monuments of the time. Saint-Gaudens hired African-American men to pose and modeled about forty different heads to use as studies for the work. The monument was unveiled on Memorial Day 1897 and received wide critical acclaim.

Creator: Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Date: 1897