Black Brigade Monument

Carolyn Manto’s clay model for full-sized statues presented during the interview process.
John Hebenstreit’s model of a relief panel presentation during the interview phase.

Artist Bios

Tyrone Williams—Writer

Tyrone Williams
Tyrone Williams teaches literature and theory at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is the author of two books of poetry. A new book of poems, The Hero Project of the Century, is forthcoming in 2009.

Tyrone will be refining text for the interpretive panels of the monument and also creating epigraphs which interpret the high relief bronze panels illustrating the story.

Erik Brown—Graphic Designer

Erik Brown
Erik has been involved in the creation of several unique, award-winning designs for recreational and public sign wayfinding systems, including Disney’s Dixie Landings and Port Orleans resorts. Erik also designed graphics for venues at the Atlanta 1996
Centennial Olympic and Para-Olympic Games.

Erik will do the graphic design for the monument including typefaces, signs and maps.

John Hebenstreit—Sculptor

John Hebenstreit
Cincinnati sculptor John Hebenstreit works in bronze, terra cotta, wax and plaster. John’s work is figurative, yet most of his effort in concentrated on creating balance within a piece. Some of his pieces include a life-size bronze bust of Cincinnati’s first African- American Mayor, Theodore M. Berry, for the Cincinnati Park Board; and a life-size bronze figure sculpture of a monk commissioned by Towne Properties for the Mt. Adams Monastery as a monument to one of Cincinnati’s oldest historical landmarks.

John will create two life-size bronze sculptures and several bronze relief panels depicting various aspects of the Black Brigade story.

Carolyn Manto—Sculptor

Carolyn Manto
Carolyn works in classical sculpture, drawing, and painting. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the First Place Award for the 24th National Sculpture Competition in Old Lyme, Connecticut. Her bronze sculpture entitled “Joined in Freedom‘s Journey,” is installed at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Carolyn will create two life-size bronze sculptures of a mother and child and several bronze relief panels depicting aspects of the Black Brigade story.

The first piece of public art to be commissioned in Smale Riverfront Park is a monument to Cincinnati's little-known Black Brigade. The Black Brigade was formed in 1862 to construct barricades to defend Cincinnati from Confederate attack. Initially, members of the Black Brigade were forced into service. Then, after a public outcry, 718 African-American men volunteered for the service and formed The Black Brigade—which, alongside many other local soldiers, successfully built the critical fortifications in Northern Kentucky.

A monument to their valiant efforts has been built as part of the first phase of the park. A call to artists and a Request for Qualifications—issued in Spring, 2009—brought 40 responses. A review process, led by Jan Brown Checco, Art Administrator for Cincinnati Parks, resulted in a short list of potential artists, from which the final group was selected. The team worked collaboratively, yet each artist had specific assignments. The artists included John Hebenstreit and Carolyn Manto, Sculptors; Tyrone Williams, Writer; and Erik Brown, Graphic Designer.

The monument has now been installed south of new Mehring Way in the park's East Tree Grove. The monument's concept called for it to be built into the earth, much like the original Black Brigade fortifications. It consists of bronze statues and plaques, interpretive signs, and carved stones which includes the names of all 718 members of the brigade. Sasaki Associates, the park’s designers, worked with the artists team to create the overall site plan and landscape plan, ensuring that the monument was well-integrated into the site. Cincinnati foundry Casting Arts Technology completed the bronze castings.

The Honorable William Mallory, Sr. championed the cause of the monument, saying that this important story in Cincinnati's history should be memorialized for all time through a permanent monument to the bravery and sacrifice of the men of the Black Brigade.

Flag of the Black Brigade

Black Brigade Site Rendering

Site Rendering

Video featuring the story of Cincinnati’s Civil War era Black Brigade and the monument being planned in Smale Riverfront Park to commemorate their valiant service.


Jan Brown Checco, Art Administrator for Smale Riverfront Park, speaks with WNKU-FM reporter Steve Hirschberg about the story of Cincinnati’s Black Brigade and the process of designing a monument to honor their service. (Recorded December 17, 2009) Quick Time | MP3