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As subjects of both historical study and popular legend, the African American servicemen known as “Buffalo Soldiers” continue to provoke conversations. The heroism of the soldiers has been celebrated by filmmakers, musicians, military reenactors, and descendants who want to preserve their legacy. Yet that legacy is a complex one, and raises challenging questions about the relationship of the soldiers to the government they served as well as to the native peoples they fought.

For museum curators, interpreting the Buffalo Soldiers legacy also means distinguishing facts from lore. Krewasky Salter and Lonnie G. Bunch (NMAAHC) venture to do just that as they explore the soldiers’ military contributions and cultural impact, while David Penny (NMAI) reexamines their combat against American Indians in the West, and Fath Davis Ruffins (NMAH) shines a light on the soldiers’ lives before and beyond the uniform.

 

A Buffalo Robe

Krewasky Salter, Museum Curator and Lonnie G. Bunch III, Founding Director, NMAAHC

Chicano Power

Mireya Loza, Museum Curator, Division of Political History, NMAH

A New Alliance

Kendra Greendeer, Curatorial Resident, NMAI


Discussion Questions

  • How has the National Mall served as a site for the public to express concerns about American society?
  • How does America’s cultural diversity come forth in the Resurrection City mural?

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