Odom celebrates people of courage
The Lunchbox Lecture on Tuesday, Feb. 26, was a total success, according to Cristie Ferguson, Librarian. Curtis Odom spoke about how the Buffalo Soldiers came about, which relates to Black History Month.
In the Boston Massacre there were 5,000 African Americans soldiers who made major contributions to the war. As 1792 rolled around African Americans were no longer allowed to serve, but then came the Civil War, the turning point for African Americans in the military. Even after the Emancipation Proclamation, racial discrimination continued to exist. Why were these African Americans called the Buffalo Soldiers? Some say because they had black hair like a buffalo, they cover themselves with buffalo robes, and because the Indians respected their ability to fight.
The new horizon came for blacks when the U.S military created opportunities: one being the chance to participate in a sector of U.S, legally, and secondly was a chance for blacks to improve their lives by getting paid $13 a month, with housing, food and clothing provided. One of their biggest barriers was to get the proper training in the black regiments; simply because the white officers never wanted to train them nor gave them the proper horses. They were given poor horses because the good horses were for the whites. Another major trouble black soldiers serving under General Huffman faced was being forced to sleep in the rain, causing them to catch pneumonia. Later, these soldiers helped Theodore Roosevelt make a name for himself.
One of the many important people of these times was a man named Henry O. Flipper. Flipper was born into slavery and racial discrimination, but transformed himself into a good student. He was the first African American to graduate from West Point, served as secretary of war, and in 1977 a National Historic Landmark was named after him. Flipper however had trouble clearing his name for something he did not do, and died without it being cleared, but in 1976, after research proved him innocent, he was given an honorable discharge. In 1999 President Bill Clinton gave him a presidential pardon.
Another important icon was Col. Charles Young, born to ex slaves in Kentucky. In 1889 Young was the third African American to graduate from West Point, and also participated in the Ninth Cavalry. Young served as a diplomat in Haiti where his maps and documents were stolen, but that didn’t stop him from fighting.
Just after Young was the woman Kathy Williams, who disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the army of 1866. How she got in without being recognized as a woman is still a mystery. She was sent to doctors five times and yet no one found that she was a woman. Williams served two years before being discharged due to illness. She was illiterate and was rejected for pension. Odom said the truth about Williams may never be revealed, but hers is a story of mystery about a woman of courage.
Odom concluded that these people and their stories represented heroes with courage and those who looked forward to the future, who never stopped even through the hard times they experienced.