The Institute was established at Hartwick College in 1998 as an educational membership organization to promote and encourage research, preservation, and remembrance of the United States Colored Troops, inclusive of men of African descent, Native Americans, and their white officers. Since more than 80 percent of the USCT were formerly enslaved at the time of their enlistment, flight to freedom was certainly a reality for many of them.
Since its founding, the USCTI has emerged as a national and international resource for the study of the black soldiers and their white officers of the Civil War. The Institute’s focus has since expanded to all military conflicts, from the Revolutionary War through the Korean War.
The Institute offers Hartwick students the opportunity, as members of its Harriet Tubman Mentoring Project, to conduct research devoted to placing the USCT within the historical realm of the Underground Railroad. The USCTI assists multiple researchers, ranging from individual families to preservation organizations, Underground Railroad sites to the media. It has been honored with proclamations from several state governments and the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust, as well as entered into the Congressional Record for outstanding historical and genealogical research.
The USCTI’s work is supported by the privately owned Matthews Collection for the Preservation of Freedom Journey Classics. It includes 2,500 items, including books about persons whose flight to freedom helped to energize the Underground Railroad, as well as a lithograph series by Civil War illustrator Thomas Nast.
The USCTI at Hartwick College was selected in 2008 as an endorsed site of the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. In April 2011, USCTI was recognized by the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom as a “Facility,” acknowledging its verifiable association to the Underground Railroad story.
Harry Bradshaw Matthews
Associate Dean and Director
Office of Intercultural Affairs
USCT Institute Founding President