Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Spearheads Effort To Honor Black Soldiers Who Fought For America’s Independence
by Melissa Jacobs
There may be doves on the Patriots Of African Descent monument at Valley Forge National Historical Park, but make no mistake. The Black soldiers in Gen. Washington’s Continental Army served with honor, strength and heroism. To mark the 30th anniversary of the monument’s dedication, Valley Forge collaborated with the Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority to create a special exhibit inside the park’s visitor center.
The exhibit’s most striking feature is a four-color poster that brings the monument to life. It’s the same illustration that’s on the monument, but the original artwork, created by Delaware County native Cal Massey, is inspiring.
It is also for sale. Prints of Massey’s artwork are available via Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Proceeds help Delta Sigma Theta continue one of its core missions: educating people about the diverse cultures that contributed to America’s quest for freedom.
Philadelphia artist Phil Sumpter used Massey’s artwork to create the granite and bronze sculpture that stands on Route 23 in the area known as the Grand Parade, not far from Washington Memorial Chapel. It was the first monument in any national park to honor Black patriots, explained Greg Purifoy, a VFNHP ranger.
That happened thanks to the tireless work of the Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Purifoy said. Founded on January 13, 1913 by 22 women at Howard University, the Delta Sigma Theta is one of the largest Black sororities in the world. It has more than 1,000 chapters; the Valley Forge chapter was formed in 1991 to raise awareness around the service of Black Americans in the American Revolution.
Getting the Patriots Of African Descent monument created was one of the chapter’s first accomplishments. Etched on the monument is the sentence, “In Honor of the PATRIOTS OF AFRICAN DESCENT who served, suffered, and sacrificed during the Valley Forge Encampment 1777-1778.” There is also a quote by Charles L. Blockson, a Temple University historian. “Throughout these historic and hallowed campsites were courageous Black Patriots who participated in our nation’s bitter fight for independence.”
The monument was dedicated in 1993 on June 19, the day in 1778 that Washington’s army marched out of its winter encampment at Valley Forge. Now, June 19 is also Juneteenth National Independence Day, a Federal holiday commemorating the day in 1865 that the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted in all of America’s states.
For the 30th anniversary of the monument’s dedication, Valley Forge and Delta Sigma Theta created a mutli-media experience chronicling the monument’s creation. The exhibit will be in Valley Forge Park’s visitor’s center through December 2023.
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