While you’re out celebrating our nation’s independence this weekend, stop by the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (900 Convention Center Blvd.) to view “A Legacy of Service,” a U.S. Army photo and art exhibit celebrating African-American soldiers who have served America since the 1800s. The exhibit is free and open to the public from 9:30 a.m. To 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The Army set up the exhibit in conjunction with the Essence Music Festival. It is set up at the convention center, where Essence has scheduled full days of seminars and roundtables throughout the festival.

Cathay Williams, the first African-American woman soldier.

The photos span the military service from the Civil War through the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, including spotlights on Medal of Honor recipients and African-American women soldiers, including Cathay Williams (pictured, left), who became the first African-American woman soldier in 1866 by disguising herself as a man, and Hazel Johnson-Brown, who became the first black female brigadier general in 1979. Other artwork covers escaped slaves who joined the military; Buffalo Soldiers, formed in 1866 to fight alongside Union forces and established by Congress as the first all-black peacetime regiment in the U.S. Army; the Harlem Hellfighters, the first African-American regiment in World War I; and the Tuskegee Airmen, the United States’ first black military airmen who gained a reputation for excellence during World War II.

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