Timeline

1863

July 18th, 1863

Black Union Soldiers Lead Attack on Confederate Troops at Fort Wagner

In February 1863, Massachusetts Governor John Andrew issued the Civil War’s first enlistment call for black soldiers. More than 1000 men from Massachusetts and other states volunteered to serve, including Frederick Douglass’s sons, Charles and Lewis. Governor Andrew selected Colonel Robert Shaw, a young white officer, to lead the nation’s first black infantry unit.

From the outset, the men of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry were treated differently than their white counterparts, receiving $7 less weekly pay than white soldiers. It is reported that, as a protest against this inequity, the entire infantry refused to accept any pay until black soldiers received the same wages as white soldiers. Wage inequities between black and white soldiers persisted for the duration of the Civil War.

On July 18, 1863, the 54th prepared to storm South Carolina’s Fort Wagner, which guarded the Port of Charleston. Colonel Shaw assembled 600 soldiers, waited just outside Fort Wagner’s fortified walls, and led the men over the walls at nightfall. Colonel Shaw and the Union generals had underestimated the number of Confederate soldiers waiting inside the fort, and the men of the 54th were outnumbered and outgunned. More than 200 Union soldiers, including Colonel Shaw, were killed. As a sign of disrespect, Confederate soldiers unceremoniously dumped the fallen soldiers' bodies in a single unmarked grave.

Despite the Union’s loss at Fort Wagner, Confederate troops abandoned the site soon after the battle. The 54th Massachusetts Infantry continued to fight for the Union and participated in a series of successful military operations in Georgia and South Carolina before the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.

2016

July 18th, 2016

Police Shoot Unarmed Therapist in North Miami, Florida

On July 18, 2016, Charles Kinsey, a 47-year-old African American man and mental health therapist, was shot by police in North Miami, Florida. After receiving a 911 call that a man was threatening suicide, the police encountered Mr. Kinsey and his patient, an autistic adult man. Mr. Kinsey was on the scene, working to diffuse the situation and escort the wandering patient back to his group home. The man was holding a toy truck that the caller had apparently mistaken for a gun.

Despite Mr. Kinsey’s efforts to explain to police that he was a behavioral therapist and that his autistic patient was not holding a weapon, the responding officers reported that Mr. Kinsey’s patient was refusing to comply with their orders and insisted he was armed. Rather than leave his patient vulnerable and in danger, Mr. Kinsey lay on the ground with his hands in the air, and continued to try to negotiate a safe resolution for officers and his patient. As he lay on the pavement in this position, a police officer fired three rounds from his rifle, wounding Mr. Kinsey in the leg.

The police department later claimed that the officer had been aiming for Mr. Kinsey’s patient, and acting out of concern for Mr. Kinsey’s safety. Immediately after the shooting, however, officers handcuffed Mr. Kinsey’s arms, turned him onto his back, and left him restrained and and bleeding on the ground for twenty minutes without medical aid. When Mr. Kinsey asked the police officer, “Sir, why did you shoot me?” he reported that the officer responded, “I don’t know.”

Mr. Kinsey is a father of five and active community member who works with local programs to keep children in school. Following the shooting, he was hospitalized for treatment. His autistic patient was also hospitalized due to the emotional trauma of witnessing the shooting. The officer was placed on administrative leave.

On August 3, 2016, Mr. Kinsey filed a federal lawsuit against the officer who shot him, alleging a violation of his civil rights in the officer’s use of excessive force. On August 5th, prosecutors announced that the officer would face no charges.