The Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Houston, Texas serves to remember all African American soldiers who have served in each American War from 1783 through the present day. Although the Buffalo Soldiers fought in the Revolutionary War, it was not until 1866 that Congress created the 9th and 10th Calvary units. The nickname, Buffalo Soldiers, was given to these fierce fighting men by the Cheyenne Indians. The term has been synonymous with all African American Soldiers. I was privileged to tour this inspiring museum with board member, Sam Davis.
Paul J. Matthews, founder of the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, researched military history and collected military artifacts and memorabilia about the Buffalo Soldiers for more than thirty years before creating the museum. Today, nearly half of the museum’s collection and exhibits have been donated from Matthews’s private collection. The bust of the Buffalo Soldier, donated from a doctor in East Texas, is the centerpiece of the museums’ collection.
The mission of the BSNM is to educate and to perpetuate the history, traditions and contributions of the American Buffalo Soldier from the Revolutionary War through the present. The museum provides reenactments of a day in the life of the Buffalo Soldier and a talk from abolitionist Harriet Tubman for school groups. These talented reenactor volunteers bring history alive for the students.
STORIES OF THE BUFFALO SOLDIERS
You find many stories as you walk the halls of the museum. One that stood out was that of Cathay Williams, the first woman Buffalo Soldier. She was a 22 year old African American woman, born a slave, who served as a cook for General Sheridan during the Civil War. Inspired to join Buffalo Soldiers, she changed her name to protect her identity to William Cathay and enlisted in Missouri. She also attained the distinction as a sharpshooter. She served in 38th infantry and marched as a Buffalo Soldier to New Mexico in 1868. After the long troop march to New Mexico, she became ill and her true identity was discovered. She was discharged and lived in Colorado in 1892 where she most likely died before the turn of the century. Williams was the first woman to enlist in the military some eighty years before women would be admitted to military.
The Houston Riot in August, 1917 was the largest court martial in the history of the military where sixty-four soldiers faced charges. The soldiers were there for construction of new military installations in and around Houston, Texas. One evening a solider saw a policeman assaulting a black female. Soon the soldiers massed and attacked the police. The riot involved 156 soldiers in the racial charged Texas town. The riot left seventeen people dead. The twenty-two day court marital was held in San Antonio and the sentences were implemented on December 10. Nineteen soldiers were hanged and forty-one served life sentences.
The Paul Matthews Collection of artifacts is exemplary: The Buffalo Soldiers’ Woolly coat, Solders’ Saddle, and Uniforms from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam are displayed. The artwork that adorns the walls is remarkable.
Don’t miss this impressive tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers when you are in Houston. You will not be disappointed.