A military cemetery whose African American history is hidden in plain sight in Philadelphia

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tags: Black History

When the ceremonies are over, though, those 13 hallowed acres tucked away in West Oak Lane are trod mostly by groundskeepers. The graveyard, a guardian of more than two centuries of United States history, is left alone with its heroic stories.

Of the 11,500 veterans and family members buried in Philadelphia National, many were African American soldiers, for the most part interred in segregated sections of the cemetery. At least 350 were U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) who fought in the Civil War and trained at Camp William Penn in Cheltenham, the first such facility for black enlistees in the Union Army.

Nearly two years ago, the VA National Cemetery Administration erected three storyboards highlighting the graveyard's significance.  One was about the cemetery, the oldest of four national cemeteries in the Philadelphia region. Another was about Valley Forge native Galusha Pennypacker, who at age 20 became the youngest person ever to hold the rank of brigadier general. The last was dedicated to 184 Confederate soldiers buried there after being wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg and dying in area hospitals.

There was none for the U.S. Colored Troops. 

An embarrassing oversight, declared Ed McLaughlin. A 74-year-old Army veteran from Flourtown and retired satellite designer for Lockheed Martin, he and a corps of supporters have been fighting ever since to set it right.

Read entire article at Philly.com

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