Glory (1989)





Glory stars Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and Cary Elwes and covers the history and impact of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry regiment, the first African American regiment in the Civil War. It highlights the relationship between the white officer Robert Gould Shaw and his men, the regiment’s formation, the soldiers’ trials with unequal pay to their white counterparts, and their fight to establish respect for the United States Colored Troops. The movie ends with the 54th’s assault on Fort Wagner.

Glory marked a resurgence in audience interest in Civil War films. This film was made during the shift of the late 80’s and early 90’s away from films depicting a clear “Lost Cause” ideology. It was the first Civil War film that examined free African Americans in the age of the Civil War, responding to an audience desire for more diverse stories of the African American experience during the 19th century.

This film was well accepted by both critics and most audiences. Denzel Washington won both a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the movie. Like all historical films, Glory has some oversights and oversimplifications. For example, the 54th was a regiment comprised of mostly freedmen from the North, rather than runaway slaves as depicted in the movie. The film also neglects the history of the regiment after the assault on Fort Wagner.




Martin Blatt, Thomas Brown, and Donald Yacovone, Hope and Glory: Essays on the Legacy of the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Regiment (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2009)

Luis Emilio, History of the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1863-1865 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007)

Russell Duncan, Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1999)


Emmanuel Dabney, Kevin M Levin, and Beth Parnicza, “Interpreting Race, Slavery, and United States Colored Troops at Civil War Battlefields,” Civil War History 62, no. 2 (June 2016).

Daniel Nathan, “The Massachusetts 54th on Film: Teaching Glory,” OAH Magazine of History 16, no. 4 (Summer 2002).

Joseph Glatthar, “‘Glory,’ the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, and Black Soldiers in the Civil War,” The History Teacher 24, no. 4 (August 1991).

James M. McPherson, “The Glory Story,” The New Republic, January 8, 1990.

Film Reviews

Roger Ebert, “Glory Film Review,” Roger Ebert, January 12, 1990.

Kevin Levin, “The 54th Massachusetts Regiment in Myth, Memory and History,” Civil War Memory, October 23, 2009.

Vincent Canby, “Review/Film; Black Combat Bravery in the Civil War,” New York Times, December 14, 1989.



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