Two members of U.S. Congress are among the supporters of a museum director’s campaign to upgrade a District of Columbia memorial-museum complex that highlights the contributions of Black soldiers.

African America Civil War Memorial. The African American Civil War Memorial, at the corner of Vermont Avenue and U Street NW in Washington, D.C., commemorates the service of 209,145 African-American soldiers and sailors who fought for the Union in the American Civil War. The sculpture The Spirit of Freedom, by Ed Hamilton of Louisville, Kentucky, was commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and completed in 1997.

African America Civil War Memorial. The African American Civil War Memorial, at the corner of Vermont Avenue and U Street NW in Washington, D.C., commemorates the service of 209,145 African-American soldiers and sailors who fought for the Union in the American Civil War. The sculpture The Spirit of Freedom, by Ed Hamilton of Louisville, Kentucky, was commissioned by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and completed in 1997.

The director of the African American Civil War Museum, former D.C. Council member Frank Smith, wants to set up a visitor’s center and a park ranger post for the memorial that is located in the U Street corridor and across the street from the museum. He solicited the assistance of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and got it.

On Dec. 18, 2015, in a letter jointly written by Norton and Lewis, they encouraged the director of the National Park Service (NPS), Jonathan B. Jarvis, to consider Smith’s proposal. “We write to respectfully request that the Department of Interior and the National Park Service investigate the feasibility of establishing a visitor’s center and assigning a park ranger permanently to the African American Civil War Memorial in the District of Columbia,” the letter said. “. . . While we understand that NPS has suffered some budgetary cutbacks in recent years, we believe this memorial needs a permanent ranger – or a student ranger or seasonal employees for high visitation months – who can share the site’s rich history with guests.”

The letter points out that the museum will be expanding this year with an additional 14,000 square feet of space and a full-time ranger would be key to the site’s viability. The letter also noted that the nation “is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 13th Amendment this year and the National Museum of African American History and Culture will open this year.”

The African American Civil War Memorial Freedom Foundation was incorporated in 1992 to tell the story about the United States Colored Troops that fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War. The memorial was dedicated in July 1998 under Smith’s leadership and included former Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Colin Powell at the ceremony.

The sculpture portrays uniformed soldiers and a sailor at a height of 10 feet with a family depicted on the back of the sculpture, and is situated in the center of a granite-paved plaza, encircled on three sides by the Wall of Honor. The wall lists the names of 209,145 Black soldiers from the Bureau of United States Colored Troops at the National Archive on 166 burnished stainless steel plaques arranged by regiment. The leaders of the museum estimate that more than 200,000 people visit the site yearly.

Smith is encouraging friends and supporters of the museum to communicate with President Obama regarding the matter. “The year 2016 will mark the 8th and final year of your presidency and the Department of Interior/National Park Service hasn’t still opened a visitor’s center or stationed a National Park ranger at the African American Civil War Memorial,” Smith said in a letter to Obama. “Please correct this great wrong before you leave office.”