Zachariah Tyler was a black man, a whitewasher by trade, who served as a minister at the St. James AME Zion Church in the upstate village of Ithaca, New York. The Civil War was raging, and the men in Reverend Tyler’s congregation were eager to join the fight, but New York refused to allow black men to enlist.
Our one-hour PBS film entitled CIVIL WARRIORS begins on Christmas Eve 1863 when, many months after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and black men had been allowed to join the military, a recruiter for the United States Colored Troops finally arrives at the AME Zion Church. Reverend Tyler welcomes the men of his congregation and steps up with his teenage son John and 24 other men to enlist in the 26th USCT, willing to fight to gain respect, to free their people. This is their story. It is a story of war on two fronts – the armed conflict between North and South, and the battle for recognition and rights for black Americans. It is a story of courage and hardship, victory and grief.
CIVIL WARRIORS comes alive in a unique spoken word format as each of six actors performs in period dress, their words carefully interwoven with historical images and music. Their words are personal; they speak directly from the heart. The self-awareness that they are living in a time of great crisis for the country and potential freedom for their people, both weighs on them and sustains them.
CIVIL WARRIORS is based on the play AIN’T I A MAN TOO by historian Carol Kammen. Producer/Director Deborah Hoard and Che Broadnax and Co-Producer/Screenwriter Ben Porter Lewis have transformed this true story into an evocative modern dramatization of events in the lives of a handful of the ordinary people who gave everything to change their world almost 150 years ago.
The PBS broadcast of CIVIL WARRIORS is intended to be only the beginning of the life of this project. We are also producing an Educational DVD for 11th grade classroom use nationwide with the film as its centerpiece, and containing a wide variety of educational materials including interviews, lesson plans, maps, lists of resources, printable materials and internet links.
We have completed high definition videotaping of the spoken word performances for the film and are now seeking post-production funding for editing and additional funding for DVD authoring and promotion. Please contact us to learn more.