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Feb. 18, 2004

Buffalo Soldiers
  John Bell will speak about the Buffalo Soldiers at Calvin College on February 25 at 7 pm in the Commons Lecture Hall as part of a variety of Black History Month activities. He will speak the next day at Grand Valley State University.

Bell, a former educator holds a bachelor's in history and a master's in education from Colorado State University. But he also is the grandson of a former Buffalo Soldier. And he owns a large collection of artifacts, including an authentic Buffalo Soldier uniform which he will wear when he presents his talk at Calvin.

The Buffalo Soldiers were all-black army regiments from the mid 1800s to the 1940s (with the exception of white commanders). Legend has it that the companies were given their names by the Cheyenne and Comanche while serving on the western frontiers. The name was a sign of respect, honoring the soldiers for their courageous spirit and their dark skin and curly hair that was similar to the buffalo.

The history of the Buffalo Soldiers began after the Civil War when, in1866, Congress passed legislation establishing two cavalry and four infantry regiments (later consolidated to two) whose enlisted composition was to be made up of African-Americans. The majority of the new recruits had served in all-black units during the war.

According to the International Museum of the Horse and its writings on the Buffalo Soldiers: "The 9th and 10th Cavalries' service in subduing Mexican revolutionaries, hostile Native Americans, outlaws, comancheros, and rustlers was as invaluable as it was unrecognized. It was also accomplished over some of the most rugged and inhospitable country in North America. A list of their adversaries - Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Victorio, Lone Wolf, Billy the Kid, and Pancho Villa - reads like a 'Who's Who' of the American West.

"Lesser known, but equally important, the Buffalo Soldiers explored and mapped vast areas of the southwest and strung hundreds of miles of telegraph lines. They built and repaired frontier outposts around which future towns and cities sprang to life. Without the protection provided by the 9th and 10th Cavalries, crews building the ever expanding railroads were at the mercy of outlaws and hostile Indians. The Buffalo Soldiers consistently received some of the worst assignments the Army had to offer. They also faced fierce prejudice to both the colors of their Union uniforms and their skin by many of the citizens of the post-war frontier towns. Despite this, the troopers of the 9th and 10th Cavalries developed into two of the most distinguished fighting units in the Army."

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-526-6475 (v)
616-526-7069 (f)