MURRAY – The fifth annual Murray State University Department of History Spring Lecture Series will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, at the Calloway County Public Library. The lecture will be presented by Dr. William H. Mulligan on “Claiming Their Freedom: African Americans during the U.S. Civil War, with an Emphasis on West Kentucky.”

For many years, the role of African American troops in the Civil War was underplayed. Despite being nearly a quarter of the Union force at the end of the war, black troops - known as U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) - did not march in the Grand Review in Washington. More than 200,000 African Americans, slave and free, not only fought in the war on the side of the Union and freedom, but also fought a political battle to be allowed to enlist. While intended for garrison duty, many saw combat and showed courage and skill as soldiers. Kentucky is credited with the second largest number of USCTs. However, Dr. Mulligan contends there is a strong argument that Kentucky should be first, but had many troops counted as from other states due to politics. Dr. Mulligan’s lecture will address the larger, national issue of allowing black troops to enlist and how this played out in Kentucky. He will also discuss those USCT units raised in West Kentucky and their service.

William H. Mulligan Jr. is professor emeritus at Murray State University. His research has largely involved forgotten or neglected groups in American history. He is the author of multiple books, book chapters and articles on American and Irish history. He is the past president of the KY Association of Civil War Sites and the KY Association of Museums, among others. He served on the Kentucky State Historic Preservation Review Board for 20 years, as well as several commissions related to the Underground Railroad in Kentucky.

The lecture is free and all interested community members are invited to attend.

More information regarding the three-part lecture series, including dates, speakers and topics may be found by visiting the CCPL’s online calendar at or by calling 270-753-2288.

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