- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 13, 2002

DETROIT (AP) The Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865 have elected their first black president.
Celestine Hollings, whose grandfather fought in the Civil War, was elected Sunday by delegates at the group's 112th annual national convention in Springfield, Mo. The 82-year-old Detroit woman ran unopposed.
"It is so important to think that I have this very important link to American history," Mrs. Hollings said. "That my grandfather helped save the Union flag. This means that we really did have a part, which is so new to so many people. They don't realize that we took part."
The group's current national president, Shirley Boris of New York, said because "there were many blacks who fought in the Civil War, it's very important to have a black president."
Mrs. Hollings discovered her Civil War connection while preparing for a family reunion in the early 1980s. She climbed ladders and combed dusty ledgers in the courthouse in Newcastle, Ky., before discovering that her mother was a daughter of a Civil War veteran.
"I was screaming when I actually saw the record," Mrs. Hollings said of finding her mother's name, Ora Allen, in the ledger. "I said, 'Look, look.' My mother thought I was crazy."
Mrs. Hollings continued delving into her family's past and found out that her maternal grandfather, Jacob Allen, enlisted in the Union Army in Nelson County, Ky., on Aug. 23, 1864.
At the age of 22, Mr. Allen fought in skirmishes and battles in the United States Colored Troops, Company G, of the 107th Regiment. He was honorably discharged on Nov. 22, 1866.
Mrs. Hollings doesn't have pictures, just census and court records.
"On many books about African Americans in the Civil War, you will see a picture of the 107th Regiment," she said. "And I look for the shortest guy in the picture. He was five-two and a half."
Union leaders allowed black men to serve as noncommissioned officers, doctors and chaplains. About 200,000 black men served in the Civil War and about 50 of the veterans' group's roughly 4,000 members are black, Mrs. Hollings said.
As a direct descendant, Mrs. Hollings become a member of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865 in 1991. She also reactivated a local unit, Sarah M.W. Sterling Tent 3 Detroit. The unit has 44 members 43 of whom are black.

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