Tag Archives: WW II Vets of Color

The Monuments by Worcester City Hall

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The George Hoar monument

By Gordon Davis

Yesterday morning a friend called me to get historical information about the Worcester Common, behind our City Hall.  She has lived in Worcester for most of her life. She has seen the Common go through several iterations.

She is too young to remember the Old South (Congregational) that doubled as a religious meeting house and the Town Hall.  The cemetery in the Common is of parishioners. The Church still exists on Salisbury Street.

She is not too young to remember the so called reflecting pool that only seemed to collect trash and restrict the foot traffic flow through the park area. The architect seemed not to have read Jane Jacobs!

The jury is still out on the Ice Oval which doubles as a skating rink in the winter and a sitting/eating area in the summer. I have never used the skating rink, but I like the tables and sun umbrellas in the summer.

Monuments sprinkle the Worcester Common and nearby area.  Some of them are relatively new.

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There is a monument concerning the genocide of Armenian people by the Turks during World War I.  This monument is located on the right hand side of the front of City Hall as you face City Hall.

There is also an Irish Cross which symbolizes the 1916 Easter Rebellion by the Irish Republican Army against British rule.

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Korean War memorial

The number of war memorials is surprising. The most surprising is that of the anti-imperialist and anti-racist founder of Worcester Polytechnical Institute, George Hoar (above). His image sits majestically wondering why the City has not changed much of its war mentality or its racist policies. Mr. Hoar opposed the Spanish American War.

The City has honored Colonel Biglow of Worcester who fought against he British in the War of American Independence.

The Civil War memorial has the names of the 398 soldiers from Worcester who died fighting the racist Confederacy and its system of chattel slavery.
 
There is a relatively new monument to the brave trooper who gave their lives in the Iraq Wars I and II. I suppose we will have to modify the monument to include Iraq War III.

On the side of City Hall there is a statue of an American GI. This generation fought the Nazis and the Axis of Fascism, Germany, Italy, and Japan government.  The Honor Roll of Black Veterans should be erected next to it, instead of on the isolated traffic island in Lincoln Square.
 

Across the street from the Worcester Commons is the first Vietnam War memorial. It predates the extravagance in Green Hill Park.  I thought for a while no knew that it existed, but every once and while I see flowers there.

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A few blocks away is the Korean War memorial (above). Although the statue is moving, it is pretext. Nonetheless, the soldiers who died and fought there performed their duty as they understood it. 

Unfortunately, it has the feel of the Western savior. Many more Koreans died in that Cnflict than Westerners.

The Worcester Common’s character changed when the Worcester Regional Transportation moved it busses to the Hub.

What will our Common be like with the demolition of Notre Dame and finished construction of City Square?

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Worcester makes progress on Honor Roll of WW II Vets of Color

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James Bonds and Bill Coleman at the WW II Vets of Color Honor Roll meeting. Make it happen, people! photo submitted.

By Gordon Davis
 
Actions speak louder than words and good actions have good effects. The City of Worcester, organized labor, the Department of Transportation and the Worcester Public Schools have acted in a good and anti-racist manner. They and other are cooperating to ensure the restoration of the “Honor Roll of Colored Veterans.”

The Honor Roll was a monument listing of the Black veterans who were in the military during World War II. It was removed by the State during the 1950s and seemingly lost forever.

Other ethnic and racial communities rightly have monuments. Recently, some in the Worcester Irish community honored the Easter Uprising by the Irish Republican Army against British rule in 1916. This was done at the Hibernian Cross at Worcester City Hall.

The efforts to replace the Black vets Honor Roll has been led by James Bond, a commander of a Veteran of Foreign Wars post and by Bill Coleman, a long time Worcester community activist and city booster.
 
In the Black community there is some anxiety about whether the Honor Roll would be replaced. It was only a week or so ago that a Worcester City Councilor Konnie Lukes attacked Bill Coleman for bothering the Worcester City Council with his petitions. City Councilor Michael T. Gaffney has made it his misguided mission to close a Black-run social agency among his other actions that some say are racist.

To be fair this project was approved unanimously, including votes by Councillors Lukes and Gaffney.

Councilor Morris “Moe” Bergman has worked on the planning and supported the project. He also supported the placement of a plaque honoring Worcester’s first Black City Councilor – Charles Scott.

The City of Worcester will help pay for the new Honor Roll, as well as allow it to be placed on a triangular plot near the Worcester Police Station. The land is on Belmont Street. 

This is sort of a disappointment, as the original proposal was to put the Honor Roll at Worcester City Hall where it could be more easily seen.
 
Students from Worcester Technical High School will donate labor and build the Honor Roll.

The Central Mass. Labor Council, headed by Joseph Carlson, will help pay for the monument and donate the materials. The Department of Transportation will also contribute to the funding.
 
Hopefully, this will be a good sign for race relations in Worcester, which have suffered several hits in recent years. The City forced former Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone out of her job … the political retaliations against Blacklives Matter … and the intransigence regarding Worcester police accountability have left a bad taste and ill feelings for many.

I am thankful for the efforts of Messrs. Bonds and Coleman. I am thankful for the support of the City of Worcester, the State, organized labor and our techical high school students. I know that all are sincere and generous and working for a better society.

The next test for us is harder: There are real problems that have disparately bad impacts on the Black community and other communities of color or communities of low-income.

The replacement of the Honor Roll is a good thing in and of itself. Is it also a harbinger of better race relations.