Bob Marley’s classic recording, Buffalo Soldiers (1983 Tuff Gong/Island,) stands as an eternal lyrical comment on the African experience in the new world, seen metaphorically, through the exploits of the Buffalo Soldiers of the United States Army’s 9th and 10th Cavalry.
African Americans have fought in every armed conflict the colonies and the United States has ever had. After the Civil War, African Americans soldiers were organized into all black units that were sent to the western frontiers to fight Indians and guard important installations and travel routes. Many southern states were not ready to endure the presence of trained and armed former slaves in their communities. The country’s westward expansion had started prior to the Civil War and the US Government’s policy toward Native Americans was "influenced by the desire to expand westward into territories occupied by these Indian tribes" [i].
As the legends go, the Indians called the African American troops “Buffalo Soldiers” because of their courage and bravery and because the texture of their hair reminded the Indians of the buffalos coat. These soldiers served honorably and bravely despite enduring racism, less rations, supplies and less adequate equipment than all white units. Sometimes, they were attacked by the very townspeople they were assigned to protect. They earned numerous Medals of Honor during the Indian wars, the Spanish American War, World War I and beyond. Henry O. Flipper, the first African American graduate of West Point, was assigned to the Buffalo Solider units. The armed forces were desegregated by President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Order in 1948, but the proud history of the Buffalo Soldiers lives on in historical observances, monuments, movies and even song.
O. Abrahams, 2013