WELLINGTON — Storytellers and historical reenactors from Missouri gave a presentation Monday evening at the Raymond Frye Complex about Buffalo Soldiers, as African American soldiers were known in the years after the American Civil War when the military segregated troops.
The performers from the Alexander/Madison Chapter of Kansas City, Mo., National Buffalo Soldiers 9th and 10th Cavalry Association gave the presentation, "From Slave to Soldier." The Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society in Wellington hosted the presentation.
Audience members wore masks. It was the first presentation the Cavalry Association had given since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
"This isn’t Black history for February," said George Pettigrew, one of the storytellers. "This isn’t my history for being Black. This is our history every day."
Pettigrew began his presentation, saying that a Black infantry raised by U.S. Sen. Jim Lane, of Kansas, was the first Black military force to fight the Confederates in the Civil War.
The men of the First Colored Volunteers went against "a rebel force greater in number, better trained, armed to the teeth" at Island Mound, Mo., and defeated them.
The Plains Indians, whom the soldiers fought, compared the Black soldiers to wild buffalo because of the way they fought.
"Why do they fight like that?" Pettigrew said. " ’Cuz we’ve been on the bad end of business for a long time."
After 1870, journalists came up with the name Buffalo Soldiers for African American soldiers.
Pettigrew’s great-grandfather, Isaac Johnson, a former slave from Alabama, joined the 38th Infantry K.
J.R. Bruce, president of the Alexander/Madison chapter, portrayed a sergeant major from the 10th Cavalry and talked about the contribution of Buffalo Soldiers from the Spanish American to Korean Wars.
"They did fight," Bruce said. "They fought to deserve a place in this country."