Congress approved allowing Black soldiers joining the Union Army in 1862. What proportion of the Union Army did they make up and what impact did their service have on the nation both during and after the war? How were the Black soldiers treated differently than White soldiers at the time?
Teaching Idea #2
One of the sources filmmakers used to learn about the events depicted were Colonel Robert Gould Shaw’s letters home during the war. Access his collected letters online at Harvard’s Houghton Library. Read one of the letters. Identify when the letter was written, who it was written to, and what was the letter's general topic and tone? Did you see any scenes in the movie that reflected references in this letter?
Teaching Idea #3
The books One Gallant Rush and Lay this Laurel were also main sources for the film's writers. Why is it that this story of Black soldiers is told by non-black people? Do you think that Colonel Robert Gould Shaw should have been the main focus of the movie? Why or why not?
Teaching Idea #4
The movie deviates from historical reality in that most of the Black soldiers in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry Regiment were not former slaves, but rather had been free all their lives. What difference does this make in the film's storytelling? Why do you think the filmmakers made this choice?