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Buffalo Soldiers Share African-American Heritage
AUSTIN, Texas — A unique and, until recently, seldom told part of Texas’ frontier heritage will come to life this summer through living history encampments, African-American rodeos and other events staged by the Texas Buffalo Soldiers Program.
The Texas Buffalo Soldiers Summer Celebration kicked off Memorial Day weekend and will continue with annual Juneteenth programs and July "Texas Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Month" programs, including the "Buffalo Soldiers Capitol Salute" at Fort Lancaster State Historical Site and at Hemisfair Park in San Antonio.
The kickoff of the summer celebration also includes scholarship awards by Texas Buffalo Soldier units across the State. In Austin, the Co A-Camp Mabry Buffalo Soldiers Don Nesby/Talferd G. Collins Scholarship recipient is Ms. Christi Woolridge, of Taylor. The Bexar County Buffalo Soldiers makes annual financial donations to San Antonio’s St Phillips Community College Deserving Student assistance scholarship fund, San Antonio’s Ella Austin Community Center (Senior & Youth programs) and to the Eastside Boys & Girls club. Other units with scholarship programs include Vernon Buffalo Soldiers Trail riders of Vernon, Bear Creek Buffalo Soldiers Youth Organization of Irving.
Two new programs have been added to this summer’s celebration. The Lone Star Leadership Academy summer youth educational series will be conducted bi-weekly from June to August. The Cochran County "Last Frontier Heritage Celebration" in Morton, is a Buffalo Soldier heritage tourism project that focuses on the 10th Cavalry, "Nolan’s Lost Expedition." This three-day event includes a trip into New Mexico to tour Buffalo Soldier Hill.
In 1999, the Texas Legislature proclaimed July "Texas Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Month," making this the only state in the Union that recognizes the Buffalo Soldiers with a month-long celebration.
American Indians dubbed the African-American regiments "buffalo soldiers." Some say the Indians thought the soldiers’ curly hair resembled the buffalo’s sacred mane, while others believe the Indians were referring to the soldiers’ fighting spirit.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department project, started by a former state parks regional maintenance specialist nine years ago, has blossomed into a statewide youth education and historical interpretation network involving non-department volunteers and partners in various cities. It grew from the idea of sharing pride around the story of African-American soldiers who helped tame the Texas frontier.
"I walked into Fort Griffin State Park and asked the park manager ’Why do you have all of these black folks’ pictures on the wall?’" said Ken Pollard, who now heads the TPWD Community Services, Education and Outreach Program. He then met A.C. Jackson with the Soldiers in Blue Committee out of Abilene and the rest, as they say, is history.
The program’s youth outreach focus has expanded to encompass Buffalo Soldiers, Hispanic Vaqueros, American Indians, Frontier Women and other cultural groups around during the 1800’s. Pollard’s program conducts ongoing cultural research, coordinates dozens of living history events for schools and youth groups across Texas each year and promotes the Texas Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Trail, which follows routes taken across Texas in the 1800’s by military personnel and civilians. A network of local Buffalo Soldiers groups and community partners plays a key role in staging and producing living history encampments, trail rides and other events.
Buffalo Soldiers events are scheduled as follows:
- June 19: Juneteenth Parade & Buffalo Soldier Camp at Austin Juneteenth Celebration Co. Camp Mabry
- June 21, July 5, 19, Aug. 2: Lone Star Leadership Academy Youth Program at Mc Kinney Roughs Park, Bastrop
- July 10: Cowboys of Color Rodeo at Travis County Expo Center, Austin, 8 p.m.
- Events for Texas Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Month Celebration at Hemisfair Park, San Antonio:
- July 3: Buffalo Soldiers Living History & Heritage Organization celebrating "Frontier Women’s Heritage"
- July 10: Buffalo Soldiers Living History & Heritage Organization celebrating "Tejano Heritage"
- July 17: Buffalo Soldiers Living History & Heritage Organization celebrating "Native American Heritage"
- July 24: Buffalo Soldiers Living History & Heritage Organization celebrating Texas’ Buffalo Soldiers "Capitol Salute"
- July 31: Buffalo Soldiers Living History & Heritage Organization celebrating "Texas Heritage"
- Other Events:
- July 30-31: "First Sgt Carl Durrah Memorial Youth Camp" Bexar County
- August 7: Cowboys of Color Rodeo at San Antonio
- June 25-27: Cochran County "Last Frontier Heritage Celebration" and "Buffalo Soldier Encampment" in Morton, Texas, at Cochran County Park, Morton Memorial Cemetery, Cochran County Activity Bldg., and Cochran County Park Pavilion
- July 24: Texas Buffalo Soldiers "Capitol Salute" at Fort Lancaster State Historical Site
- Sept. 4: Cowboys of Color Rodeo at Will Rogers Coliseum, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
- Sept. 17-19: Wild West town, Native American villages, Western Cattle Trail and stagecoach lines come to life at Fort Griffin State Historical Site
For general information about Texas Buffalo Soldiers, go to (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/community_outreach_programs/buffalo_soldiers/).
To view the online version of the summer celebration schedule, go to (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/learning/community_outreach_programs/buffalo_soldiers/calendar.phtml).
For more details about the summer schedule, the public may also phone Pollard at (512) 389-8569.
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