As statues of historical figures such as Christopher Columbus and Robert E. Lee — both of whom have potentially racist or otherwise troubling backstories — are regularly being removed from places of honor in urban areas, a new set of heroes we can proudly look up to are emerging in their place.
The latest group to receive such a recognition? A group of Black military men known as the Buffalo Soldiers will be memorialized with a new statue at one of our nation’s biggest and most elite military institutions.
Leah Asmelash of CNN has reported that “after years of fundraising, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point will finally unveil a new monument dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers, a group of Black soldiers who played a key role in the westward expansion of the United States.”
Phenomenal Buffalo Soldier dedication ceremony at West Point today. Beautiful statue commemorating the service of these African-American soldiers who – in a segregated Army – taught the leaders of WWI, WWII & Korea. Thanks, @CaslenB, GEN (r) Vince Brooks & MG (r) Gorden. pic.twitter.com/RJcjQR0qaM
— Mark Hertling (@MarkHertling) September 10, 2021
According to Asmelash, “the monument — a 10-foot-tall bronze statue depicting a Buffalo Soldier on a horse — [had] already been installed at the military academy, but [was] not officially unveiled until a ceremony on Sept. 10.”
In a statement honoring the statue’s installation at West Point, U.S. Military Academy 60th Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams said, “these Soldiers embodied the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country and ideals of the Army Ethic. This monument will ensure that the legacy of Buffalo Soldiers is enduringly revered, honored and celebrated while serving as an inspiration for the next generations of cadets.”
Amazing day at West Point where my father – who was the first black football player at @GoArmyWestPoint – and my uncle were on hand for the Buffalo Soldier Monument dedication. My grandfather, Frank, was a proud Buffalo Soldier who served at West Point #proudson/grandson pic.twitter.com/wxy6pnNg62
— Chad Steele (@CSteele32) September 10, 2021
Although history books aren’t always quick to tell their story, America’s Buffalo Soldiers were originally members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army formed on Sept. 21, 1866, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The nickname Buffalo Soldiers was given to the group by Indigenous natives, some of whom fought against them in the Indian Wars. The term quickly spread and eventually came to symbolize all African American regiments.
Asmelash explained that in addition to the exploration and service to the nation on the West Coast, many Buffalo Soldiers were stationed at West Point earlier in their careers. Many Buffalo Soldiers became proficient on horseback at the Academy, and some passed these skills on to generations of new cadets.
Eddie Dizon, the sculptor who created the new monument, said because of their incredible skill with horses, he decided to memorialize his Buffalo Soldier on horseback. Dixon said he wanted to capture the “horsemanship expertise that was provided to future Army officers.”
The new Buffalo Soldier monument cost more than a million dollars to design, construct and install, was a gift to the Academy from the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point and will also become the first outdoor statue of a Black man at the school.