July 28, 2012 - Buffalo Soldiers Day

This is an actual, official holiday in the U.S., declared so by Congress in 1992. And I bet you didn't even know that buffalo could serve as soldiers, right?

Actually, the Buffalo Soldiers were the U.S. Army regiments of African American soldiers, first formed on this date in 1866. The first of these regiments fought bravely for the Union during the Civil War.

Notice that:
(1) The regiments were racially segregated. White and black soldiers didn't live and fight together in the same regiment until the armed forces were integrated in the 1940s and 1950s.

(2) The segregated African-American regiments often had white officers, although there were some black officers even during the Civil War (Henry O. Flipper is one example). (Also note that in 1989 Army General Colin Powell was appointed as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which meant that an African American general was the highest ranking officer in the entire U.S. military.)
(3) The term “Buffalo Soldiers” was a name given to the black soldiers by some Native Americans that they fought during the Indian Wars. The name could have been praise for the toughness of the soldiers, or mere comment on the soldiers' curly black hair, but some historians think it was a disparaging racial term, meant to insult the soldiers.

Today various groups will hold reenactments, dedications, and special programs in order to pay tribute to the Buffalo Soldiers. There may be screenings of the Oscar-winning movie “Glory” (rated R), and the TV movie “Buffalo Soldiers” (rated TV-14).

Find out more...

  • Here are some interesting illustrated pages about the Buffalo Soldiers, courtesy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine. 

Also on this date:

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