Memorial Day 2024: Flag ceremony held to honor African Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice

A flag placement ceremony was held at Locust Hill African American Cemetery in Trenton Memorial Day weekend.

The cemetery on Hart Avenue is the oldest remaining segregated cemetery in New Jersey’s capital city serving the community between 1861 to 1911. The names of those buried there were lost, including 10 soldiers who fought in the Civil War.

In recent years, six of the soldiers were identified and now, finally in 2024, all 10 soldiers’ names were recited at the ceremony.

"These were African Americans who were faced with the proposition that the country was being split apart and one part would be enslaved. Their families, many of them, were still enslaved," said First Sergeant Algernon Ward, Jr., of the Sixth Regiment U.S. Colored Troops. "They decided to put up, to pay the price for citizenship, to represent the four million Blacks, living enslaved in the country at that time."

The Trenton Army JROTC and the Sixth Regiment Colored Soldiers Reenactors led the flag placement and gun salute ceremony.

"We all feel honored to be here," said Jonnathan Martinez, Trenton Army JROTC. "I enlisted in the Army, so I’m going to the Army, so it’s really truly touching. They’re not unknown anymore, which is great."

Trenton Mayor W. Reed Gusciora said this ceremony sets an example for future generations of Americans to take their freedom seriously because it comes at a cost.

"This is a spot that we chose to honor all the brave men and women that have served our country and lost their lives in battle," said Mayor Gusciora. "This truly will be a gathering place, and we hope that during America’s Semiquincentennial celebration, they will come and visit this cemetery and just see the history of the capital city."

The Locust Hill African Cemetery and Museum Project uncovered the final four soldiers’ names with the support of the Trenton Historical Society.