A statue will be unveiled this week at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point honoring a group of Black soldiers who helped the U.S. expand westward.
The Buffalo Soldiers, as they were known, also taught riding to West Point cadets for 40 years. The 10-foot-tall bronze statue depicts a Buffalo Soldier on a horse and will be officially unveiled in a ceremony Friday.
“These Soldiers embodied the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country and ideals of the Army Ethic,” said U.S. Military Academy 60th Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the first African-American in that position, in a statement obtained by CNN. “This monument will ensure that the legacy of Buffalo Soldiers is enduringly revered, honored and celebrated while serving as an inspiration for the next generations of cadets.”
The Buffalo Soldiers were made up of six all-Black regiments formed in 1866, the first Black soldiers to serve in a peacetime army after the Civil War, according to the Association of the United States Army. The group stationed at West Point instructed white soldiers and professionalized horsemanship training at the academy.
An engraved plaque on the 2,000-pound statue reads, “In Memory of the Buffalo Soldiers who served with the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments as part of the United States Military Academy Cavalry Detachment at West Point.”
The piece is the brainchild of the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, which raised about $1 over five years to raise the $1 million to commission and mount the statue, according to CNN. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Fred Gorden, the first Black commandant of cadets at West Point, spearheaded the fundraising effort.
Sculptor Eddie Dixon created the statue to highlight the “horsemanship expertise that was provided to future Army officers,” the academy said. Dixon modeled the statue after African American Staff Sgt. Sanders H. Matthews Sr., whose granddaughter, Aundrea Matthews, was there for the delivery last Tuesday.
“Everybody has a right to have their story told, because it’s a powerful story,” Matthews told The Washington Post. “Just what [the Buffalo Soldiers] endured, their determination and their commitment to prove to the world that African American men can contribute and are viable citizens of this country.”
It also highlighted that the triumphs are as important as Black pain, she said.
“We talk about so much pain that Black men experience in America and all the judgments people make about them,” Matthews said. “But when you put this monument up there, you’re only going to be able to talk about their triumphs … their valor, their honor, their patriotism.”
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