Glory (1989)

Glory, based on historical fact, is the story of the 54th Volunteer Infantry in Massachusetts. The story is told from the perspective of Robert Shaw, a White Commanding Officer, during the Civil War. This story was immediately unique because the 54th Infantry, with the exception of the Officers, was completely made up of African-American men.


© – Glory (1989)

Not surprisingly, racism reared its ugly head on numerous occasions in the form of violence and discrimination on the part of the White officers towards the African-American Infantry soldiers. Robert Shaw was unique in that, unlike his other White colleagues, he had the desire and intention of training his African-American Infantry soldiers fairly and to fight with a relentless spirit in the Civil War. Collectively, they wanted to rally against the injustices bestowed upon them and prove themselves to their comrades and to the other Commanding Officers.

This intention between Robert Shaw and his Infantry men was the first example of teamwork in this film:

  • From the very start, Officer Shaw was very strict and serious with his men, and trained them from the beginning the importance of endurance, alertness, and never losing focus of their goal. Although it may have seemed extremely harsh to many viewers of this film, Officer Shaw felt that it was necessary at the time in order to drive home the importance and seriousness of their wartime circumstances. Thankfully, Officer Shaw pulled back a little from his overly-harsh leadership style and, although he still led with a firm hand, he did begin to treat the Infantry men with more respect. Eventually, Officer Shaw learned that they were more alike than they were different.

  • The African-American soldiers began to understand Officer Shaw’s training, and they also worked as a team to prove to, not only their White detractors, but also to Officer Shaw that they were more than capable of fighting successfully in this war.

  • Another display of teamwork was probably pretty obvious, but still worth stating. The African-American Infantry men had to team up on many occasions to protect themselves against the other White officers who, with the exception of Robert Shaw, were extremely prejudiced against them and displayed it whenever and however they could.

Unspeakable tragedy befalls the 54th Infantry:

  • Officer Shaw is shot and dies from his wounds
  • Another Infantry man is shot numerous times while attempting to lift a flag at the fort
  • Eventually, half of the 54th Infantry men lose their lives in the final battle
    Through all this tragedy, their brave efforts were not in vain, nor did their efforts go unnoticed. Eventually the Union accepted thousands of African-American men into combat training, which played a huge part in changing the way that the war was headed.

Overall, although this film was about racism, war, and the associated ravages of both, it is also about camaraderie, friendship, determination, courage, and of course teamwork.

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