Buffalo Soldiers
African Americans in the Frontier Army


BROADCAST DATE: TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2009

10 AM AND 1 PM EST
GRADES 6-9

African Americans have served in the military since colonial times, but it wasn't until 1866 that black men could enlist in the Regular Peacetime Army. Native Americans called these men "Buffalo Soldiers" because their hair resembled the matted cushion that is between the horns of the buffalo.

These men were stationed at a number of frontier posts. They escorted mail and stagecoaches, built roads and telegraph lines, and engaged in battle with Apaches, Comanches, and other Indian
groups.

The Buffalo Soldiers, like their white counterparts, endured harsh living conditions, difficult duty, low pay and prejudice as soldiers. They were not only subjected to civilian prejudice because they were soldiers, but they were also subjected to racial prejudice because of the color of their skin. Yet the men who served in the black regiments gained a reputation for dedication and bravery.

After the Indian Wars ended in the 1890s the black regiments continued to serve, participating in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, The Mexican Expedition, World War I, World War II, and the Korean Police Action. Some African-American soldiers served as the first park rangers at Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park and General Grant (Kings Canyon) National Parks.

Many decades later, African-American regiments were integrated into the regular army. However, for some the term "Buffalo Soldier" became a proudly worn "badge of honor" which signified courage and patriotism.

This Electronic Field Trip, designed for grades 6-9, will originate from Fort Davis in Fort Davis, Texas. Fort Davis was a key post in the defense system of western Texas and southeastern New Mexico and was home to both black infantry and cavalry troops. Fort Davis, now a National Historic Site, is considered one of the best remaining examples of a post-Civil War military post in the American Southwest.

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