The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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February 9, 2013

Buffalo Soldiers in focus at Sod House

In conjunction with the celebration of February as Black History Month, Roger Hardaway will speak on “Buffalo Soldiers: African-American Troops in the American West,” at 10 a.m. Feb. 16 at the Sod House Museum in Aline.

Hardaway is a professor of history at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1990. Prior to coming to NWOSU, he was on the faculty at Eastern New Mexico University. He also taught at the University of North Dakota and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. At NWOSU, he teaches classes on the American West, American Indian history, African-American history, and courses in U.S. history from the late 19th century to the present.

Hardaway holds master’s degrees in history from New Mexico State University and the University of Wyoming. His doctorate is from the University of North Dakota, where his dissertation topic was African-Americans in the American West.

 He has published three books on that subject, and each one has included a chapter on the buffalo soldiers. His articles have appeared in books edited by others, as well as such journals as Annals of Wyoming, the Journal of Arizona History and the Negro History Bulletin (now known as the Black History Bulletin). His most recent journal article is “Oklahoma’s African-American Rodeo Performers,” which appeared in the summer 2011 issue of Chronicles of Oklahoma.

The history of the buffalo soldiers dates back to the American Civil War, when the U.S. government reluctantly allowed almost 200,000 blacks to volunteer to serve in the Army. Many governmental and military leaders assumed that men were incapable of being good soldiers, but those who fought in the Civil War dispelled that myth.

Consequently, in 1866, Congress passed a law allowing blacks to serve in both infantry and cavalry units in the post-war army. These regiments primarily were commanded by white officers, but otherwise were segregated. The government stationed most black troops in isolated outposts on the western frontier.

American Indians gave black troops the name “buffalo soldiers” because the men’s hair (which sometimes was worn fairly long) looked like a bison’s mane. Black troops comprised about 10 percent of the U.S. army’s forces during the late 19th century, their desertion rate was lower than that of white troops, and several buffalo soldiers received the military’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

The Sod House Museum is located southeast of Aline on Oklahoma 8. It is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For information, call (580) 463-2441 or email sodhouse@okhistory.org.

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