SAN ANGELO, Texas — During the month of February we bring you the stories of significant African-Americans and their impact on the United States and Concho Valley. Amanda Lozano tells the story of the first African-American soldiers to serve in the U.S. Army, that protected the southwest and great plains in the late 19th century: The Buffalo Soldiers.
“African-Americans had served in the United States military since the American Revolution and up, but on a volunteer unit basis. This is regular Army. These regiments were created and they were sent out to the vast reaches of the frontier. Fort Concho would be one of them,” said Cory Robinson, Curator at Fort Concho.
After the American Civil War, the United States military created formal regiments of all African-American and non-white men, known as Buffalo Soldiers.
“As part of the army they would go out and protect the plains of the United States and protect the national parks and defeat some of the Native Americans in this area,” said Sherley Spears, who serves on the board at Fort Concho and is also the president of the San Angelo NAACP.
It is believed that the name originated with the belief of some Native Americans that the soldiers’ dark, curly, black hair resembled that of a buffalo.
“The nickname ‘Buffalo Soldier’ was just that, a nickname. Nothing official, nothing from the military. Supposedly the name comes from the Native Americans at that time period. Because of the wool, the color of their skin, the way they fought, the Native Americans gave them the name ‘Buffalo Soldiers,'” explained Robinson.
Over time, black troops represented 50 percent of the soldiers who built and staffed Fort Concho in its active years.
“This is one of the first places the Buffalo Soldiers were housed. They lived here, their spirits are here. They were out protecting the forest and the parks. They were protecting us. It was just a normal part of being an African-American army soldier at that time,” added Spears.
Fort Concho has promoted and preserved the Buffalo Soldier heritage for decades with a living history unit, special programs and displays.
“We have this gem of Fort Concho here. A lot of people say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard of the Buffalo Soldiers.’ But do you really understand what the Buffalo Soldiers were and do you really get the sacrifices that were made?,” continued Spears.
The soldiers’ legacy remains today, in Fort Concho, San Angelo and today’s African-American community.
“All of us are proud of our military heritage and we should be. It’s important with this fort to understand what the Buffalo Soldiers did. It was different and unique,” said Spears.