Buffalo Soldiers

Ruth & I began our most recent trip in Tacoma, WA where my brother used to live before moving to Oakland. This increasingly stressed community has a number of tourist attractions worth visiting including an art museum of note, a museum of glass with a focus on artist Dale Chihuly, The Washington State History Museum, and Point Defiance among them. This time we added a new museum we had not been to before that’s devoted to The Buffalo Soldier. It has several reasons to be here in Tacoma but limited hours. The 2 women in charge of it treated Ruth & me very well, and we really benefited from being in this fine facility with a great location that is destined to change.

What are the Buffalo Soldiers? Way back in 1866, the US Congress created them. They were African-American regiments composed of recently freed slaves who were charged with helping this country to recover from its Civil War and patrol the explosive frontier that was developing as the population moved westward. They tended to be dedicated men who wanted to help despite low pay in a situation where they at least had an opportunity for advancement, and let me get this out of the way quickly. How did these men get this name? According to legend they had hair that resembled the buffalo and a fighting spirit not unlike this frontier animal that covered the plains but were disappearing rapidly in an era of armed men with guns who saw little reason to leave them alone. Buffalo Soldiers built forts and roads, protected the enslaving men and women who had caused them misery, mapped the frontier, and settled conflicts that developed. They tended to serve in difficult places like Cuba, Mexico, and The Philippines.

They tended to be diplomatic, problem solvers and social achievers who cared about civil rights and inequality like admirable Charles Young. He attended West Point, the 9th African American to do so and he was its 3rd African-American graduate. He distinguished himself as a Buffalo Soldier, became a colonel, settled in Tacoma, founded this museum, served where he was needed in the developing national parks and died in 1922. The last Buffalo Soldier Units were disbanded by the military in 1944. One woman served as a Buffalo Soldier. A number of his fellow servers, 450 of them to be exact, are appropriately buried in the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio.

The woman who gave us a tour of this facility serves on its board of directors. Her name is Jackie Jones-Hook, this museum’s Executive Director. Her father, William Jones. served as a Buffalo Soldier and she opened this museum to honor her father’s memory. She is excited by what this museum is doing for the children of Tacoma and looks forward to its eventual move to a new facility locally. This will happen even though no official date has been announced. This museum is, for now, here to stay on Wilkeson Street in Tacoma where it has been since 2005. It is opened for limited hours on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is the only museum of its kind around and supports the National Museum devoted to the Buffalo Soldier in Houston, Texas.

If I learn when it’s moving, I will let you know. In the meantime, it’s worth seeing and one-of-a kind place in the American West. Buffalo Soldiers served Americans for decades and deserve our support in this free museum.

Hank

About roads-rus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roads-rus

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