With the inauguration of Barack Obama as our nation’s first African-American president, citizens of the United States have expressed a real and lasting desire to make change and move into the future, writing a new type of American history.
But at the same time we celebrate this turning point, a significant piece of African-American history is in danger of being wiped from existence.
They are the Buffalo Soldiers.
The U.S. Army enlisted men of African-American heritage who had only recently been allowed into the service. They helped settle the wild American West. Soldiers from the Ninth and Tenth U.S. Cavalry arrived at Fort Davis, Texas in 1867; a time when Texas was open to attack by Apaches and Comanches.
But, by the time the Buffalo Soldiers left in 1885, settlers enjoyed some level of safety and comfort, and mail traveled smoothly along the historic San Antonio-El Paso road. Fort Davis became the
Regimental Headquarters for all four Buffalo Soldier regiments that served our country during the last decades of the 19th century.
Fort Davis is now a National Historic Site. Visitors to the site experience the story of the Buffalo Soldiers first-hand, seeing the forts they built, the barracks they slept in and the parade grounds where they drilled.
But now, a pivotal segment of American history – of OUR history – is in jeopardy. A portion of the spectacular view encompassing Fort Davis – the same unchanged natural view our Buffalo Soldiers looked upon as they manned the Wild West, is in danger of being sold for development.
The Conservation Fund, an organization that works to save and protect unique land locations, is in the process of trying to acquire the property. The agency must raise $600,000 to cover all cost associated with securing the 41-acre tract. So far, $50,000 has been raised and pledged. You can see it’s a tall order, but as project leader, Andy Jones explains, “It is vital that Americans and African Americans in particular step up to help acquire this property to show that we are interested in the protection of our legacy. The Buffalo Soldiers’ record of accomplishments on the Western Frontier can be seen, touched, tasted, and felt at Fort Davis National Historic site. It would be an intolerable affront and an irony too great to bear if, at the time we are celebrating our first African-American president, we allow this living example of the valiant men who came before him to fall on the chopping block.”
Will the Conservation Fund reach its goal? I asked Andy Jones that question.
His answer: Miracles do happen.
And as African Americans, we know that to be the case. After all, we are making history in the White House.
For more information about Fort Davis National Historic Site and how you can help save it, visit www.conservationfund.org or contact Andy Jones, director, at 512-477-1712.