The legacy of African-American soldiers dates back to the Revolutionary War, but it wasn’t until 1866 that they were guaranteed full citizenship, including the right to serve in the U.S. Army. In 1869, Congress established four all-black regiments within the Army – the 9th and 10th Cavalry and the 24th and 25th Infantry. These soldiers, known for their fierce bravery and fighting spirit, were dubbed “Buffalo Soldiers” by Native Americans during the American Indian Wars.
All four of the first regiments of “Buffalo Soldiers” were garrisoned right here in the Presidio during the Spanish-American (1898) and Philippines-American War (1899-1902). There are 450 Buffalo Soldiers interred at the Presidio’s
San Francisco National Cemetery.
Buffalo Soldiers protected parks in the western United States before the National Park Service was created. The Presidio’s 24th Infantry and 9th Calvary units protected both Yosemite and Sequoia national parks in 1899, 1903, and 1904.
On Sunday, August 12, 2018, a group of community leaders, educators and visitors joined National Park Service Ranger Alejandra Iraheta on a guided “Buffalo Soldiers Walk” around the Presidio that ended at the San Francisco National Cemetery. Many attendees were already well-versed in Buffalo Soldiers history.
We asked guests, “What brought you to the Presidio Buffalo Soldiers Walk today?”
Kendahsi Haley, Oakland, CA, and Tim Brown, Stockton, CA
Kendahsi: I spend a lot of time at the Presidio. I love open spaces, nature, trees, and I love the Buffalo Soldiers. I love to walk through the cemetery and just absorb the energy of the magnificent men who were once here. This is my second time coming on a walk and I always arrive a little late. This time I brought a friend! And, wow, we had such great people speaking today.
Tim Brown: Kendahsi and I were actually neighbors last year, and this was something she kept saying we would do. “Oh, you know – we’re gonna go do a buffalo soldiers walk!” she’d say. It would come up every now and then, and then it came up today, and here we are. You know I didn’t really have any expectations, but this was so informative, and really gave an insider’s perspective. Very powerful. I definitely want to read more and learn about the Buffalo Soldiers now.
Kendahsi: This made our day. It will energize us for the week!
Horace “Stoney” Stonework, Hercules, CA
Horace: I was in the 9th Cavalry [one of the original Buffalo Soldiers Calvary regiments] stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey Bay. My Great Uncle was actually a Buffalo Soldier himself back when the army was still segregated, and he fought in Cuba with Teddy Roosevelt. Buffalo Soldiers history has been following me around! My family was enslaved, and when they escaped slavery, they found solace with a family of Native Americans. Because of our stone masonry skills, the Native Americans gave us the last name “Stonework”, and we’ve kept it ever since. When people ask about my last name I say, “I got it from the Indians” and they laugh. But it’s the truth!
Dedan Ji Jaga, Richmond, CA
Dedan: I’m Commander for the Richmond, California
National Association for Black Veterans (NABVET) Chapter 92, which helps vets secure their benefits and entitlements. We’re trying to bring together a weave of fiber that’s going to be substantial enough to form a whole cloth – enough for us to really do something to bring back the significance of the history and contributions of the Buffalo Soldiers.
Leon Watkins, San Pablo, CA
Leon: I’m the Founder and Executive Director of an organization called the Walking Ghost of Black History, which shares information about African-American involvement in the military. I was also the flag bearer in the movie
Glory, and [the producers] donated 20 [Buffalo Soldiers] uniforms to the Walking Ghost of Black History. For the last 30 years, we’ve been involved in Veterans Day parades and naturalization ceremonies, and for the last five years we’ve supported the National Park Service through the Port Chicago Disaster. We’ve also participated in Rosie the Riveter ceremonies. Living history is what I do!