The National Veterans Coalition recently started a fundraising effort to build a bronze monument of the famous Buffalo Soldier Col. Charles Young. When completed, the statue, which will be erected in Washington, D.C., will be the first in the nation to showcase a black military officer on a horse.
The term “Buffalo Soldier” originated with the Cheyenne warriors in 1867 and was given out of respect and the fierce fighting ability of the black soldiers of the 10th Cavalry. The actual Cheyenne translation of the term was “Wild Buffalo.” Over time, Buffalo Soldiers became a generic term for all African American soldiers. In 1866, through an act of Congress, six all-African American Army units were created — the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Infantry Regiments. The four infantry regiments were later reorganized to form the 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments. These men represented the first black professional soldiers in a peacetime army and included former slaves and veterans from the Civil War.
Born in Kentucky to former slaves, Young graduated from West Point in 1889. His first assignment after graduation was with the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry in Nebraska, and then in the 9th and 10th Cavalries in Utah. Young was the highest-ranking African American in the U.S. military at the time of his death in 1922. He was denied a promotion because of his race. After World War I, he was sent to Liberia on a military intelligence assignment. Young died in Nigeria in 1922.
The million-dollar capital campaign includes a black history poetry poster series that honors Crispus Attacks, Frederick Douglass and Col. Charles Young. The set of four posters retails for $55. In addition, the Veteran’s Coalition has commissioned renowned sculptor Antonio Tobias Mendez to create the life-sized statue. Mendez produced the bust of Thurgood Marshall that is on display at Baltimore Washington International Airport.
–torrance stephens, ph.d.