Magazine article Social Studies Review

The Buffalo Soldiers: Unsung Heroes of the American West

Magazine article Social Studies Review

The Buffalo Soldiers: Unsung Heroes of the American West

Article excerpt

"The Buffalo Soldiers: Unsung Heroes of the American West," is presented in a manner that is relevant to the target audience. Specific goals and objectives are set in place for K-6, middle school, and high school. The overall goal remains the same for each level. That is, to be entertaining and informative. The use and/or discussion of weapons are not a part of the presentation, and armed conflict is de-emphasized.

At the end of the Great Civil War, approximately 180,000 African Americans served in the Union Army. On July 28th, 1866, the United States Congress authorized the formulation of the Ninth and Tenth Horse Cavalries. Additionally, the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-Fifth Infantry Regiments were also mustered. The formulation of these regiments was historic in that this was the first time that African Americans served in the military during "peace time."

When the great Native American tribes of the Plains, particularly the Cheyenne, encountered the Black troopers, they called them Buffalo Soldiers. This was a term of honor in that the buffalo or "Watonka," was and continues to be sacred in Native American culture. Because of their dark skin, curly hair, and courage in battle, the Cheyenne named them so.

These men - in spite of racial prejudice, harsh conditions, and inferior equipment - distinguished themselves throughout the period known as the "Indian Wars" (1866-1890). During their service 18 members of the unit were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Presentation K-6

This presentation relies heavily on visual aids, group participation, and show-and-tell. The presenter is in full uniform and various equipment is also displayed. The children come into the auditorium to the tune of Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier." Many of the children are familiar with the tune and usually sing along. After getting agreements regarding conventions of courtesy, the program begins with an introduction.

The goal of the program is to have the children come away with information in 4 major areas:

* Who were the Buffalo Soldiers?

* Who called them Buffalo Soldiers and why?

* How did they get their name?

* Who were: 2nd Lt. Henry O. Flipper, Capt. Alien

* Allensworth, Pvt. Cathey Williams

The children are then asked if they were to describe a buffalo what would be some of the things they would say? The children contribute descriptors like hairy, dark, big, fast, brown, mean, horns, etc. After affirming the children's responses, the presenter tells them that because of their hair, skin color, and fighting spirit African American soldiers were called Buffalo Soldiers. They are also told that this was a term of honor, because the buffalo was sacred to Native Americans.

2nd Lt. Henry O. Flipper

2nd Lt. Henry O. Flipper was the first African American to graduate from West Point. He is significant because in the 4 years that he attended the institution he was given the "silent treatment." No one spoke to him outside of the classroom. For all practical purposes he was ostracized. In spite of this treatment he graduated 50th out of a class of 77 in 1873.

The goal here is teach the children tolerance as it relates to differences. I ask the children what it would be like to be in a school where no one spoke to you because of the color of your skin, clothing you wore, hairstyle, disability (wheel chair, mental handicap, etc).

Capt. Allen Allensworth

Capt. Allen Allensworth was a reverend and educator who served with the Buffalo Soldiers in the American West. Through his efforts, Allensworth made basic reading and writing skills mandatory for enlisted personnel in the army. …

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