• Ezra

Ode to the Buffalo Soldiers

On this memorial day, I'm taking a moment to remember all the Buffalo Soldiers that pasted away in the service.

Yesterday I was talking to my father about all the African American men that died during World War I, and how sad that was. Even though they fought and died for their country, their country did not value their lives - as evidenced by lynching and overall discrimination rampant in America during the early to mid 1900’s.

The silver lining to this sad situation is that serving in the military gave these men the opportunity to see the world and experience life outside of the context of American racism. It was walking through the streets of France and being hailed by white people without prejudice that gave these soldiers an idea of what could be.

With a new found pride these decorated war heroes returned home, however the very of existence of a proud Black man was a threat to some. According to notes from the Equal Justice Initiative, "Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination."

The Red Summer ensued. During the summer of 1919 when WWI veterans returned home, race riots happened all across America in big and small cities alike. But these soldiers did not just sit back and get massacred. With their military training and pride they organized themselves, took arms, and fought back to protect their families and communities.

In Washington, DC black veterans created a barricade around Howard University and it's surrounding community, and lined building tops with snipers in order to to protect their loved ones and property from angry mobs.

During the raise riots that broke out in Chicago, my mother's hometown, black veterans where able to break into a local armory to greater defend their communities against the violent rioters. The reality is that many of these veterans had participated in live combat in Europe, so seeing untrained mobs of evil people with guns and torches did not scare them.

The fact is that we fought back. According to a book called "Red Summer" by Cameron McWhiter, "The males carried their guns with as much calmness as if they were going to shoot a rabbit in a hunt, or getting ready to shoot the Kaiser’s soldiers."

This is warrior spirit that I want to honor on this memorial day. Honoring the memory of African American soldiers who did any theatre of war, including right here in America - those who fought for freedom, justice, and their lives during the race riots of 1919.


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