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Spanish American War (1898)
At War with Bigotry - Buffalo Soldiers in the Spanish American War



At War with Bigotry - Buffalo Soldiers in the Spanish American War
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 7 to 9
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.09

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    demeaned, long-simmering, mind-sets, officialdom, staffed, stoic, task-confronting, oust, hostility, manpower, mid-1890s, restraint, short-lived, valor, telegraph, amongst
     content words:    Civil War, Cavalry Regiments, Colored Troops, American West, Buffalo Soldiers, Indian Wars, African Americans, Jim Crow, At Las Guasimas, Rough Riders


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At War with Bigotry - Buffalo Soldiers in the Spanish American War
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     After the U.S. Civil War, troops were needed for remote outposts in the West. Troop strength had been cut after North and South had made peace. At the same time, the military was kept busy subduing native tribes as white settlers pushed west. The newly formed 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry Regiments were called upon to fill the manpower gap.
 
2     The soldiers of the 9th and 10th were not green recruits. They had fought for the Union as members of the U.S. Colored Troops. They were black units staffed with white officers. A few years later, they were joined by two infantry units, the 24th and 25th. These were also made up of black soldiers.
 
3     For the next two decades, the four units served in the American West. They put up forts, strung telegraph line, built roads, and guarded mail shipments. That was in addition to the main task—confronting the Apache, Kiowa, Sioux, and other tribes who strongly objected to being cornered on reservations. It was the Kiowa who gave the black troops their nickname—"Buffalo Soldiers."
 
4     In their many skirmishes with the tribes, the black troops proved as tough and fearsome as the shaggy king of the Plains. Nearly 20 Medals of Honor were awarded amongst the four units during the "Indian Wars." Back in "civilization," however, it didn't matter how bravely a black soldier had served his country. He was subject to the same bias as before. He was still barred from white society, except as a servant.
 
5     By the mid-1890s, the Buffalo Soldiers had worked themselves out of a job. The West had been tamed. Native tribes had been confined to their allotted lands. Then, towards the end of the decade, a long-simmering conflict just south of U.S. shores boiled over. America joined Cuban freedom fighters to oust Spain from the area. Again, troops were needed to fill the gap.
 
6     The men of the four black units were useful assets to the U.S. Army. All were seasoned soldiers. They had proven themselves under difficult conditions. One hazard of the tropics for white troops was disease. It was widely thought that the illnesses would have no effect on African Americans.
 
7     The Buffalo Soldiers were among the first of the regular army called to duty in Cuba. The units were sent to staging areas near Tampa, Florida. In southern towns, the old prejudice was alive and well. The black men who'd proudly done the U.S. military's job in the West were now insulted and demeaned. They endured racial slurs. Their daily lives were controlled by humiliating Jim Crow rules.
 
8     Most of the soldiers met the insults with stoic restraint. But tension prowled the streets. Violence loomed just beneath the surface of every contact between black soldiers and whites. The war seemed a bitter joke to many black people. The U.S. was eager to come to the aid of those oppressed by Spain. At the same time, its own black citizens struggled with oppression every day.
 
9     Still, the soldiers were anxious to depart for the battlefield. Anything was better than the hostility all around them in the staging camps. Besides, most believed the war was another chance for them to prove themselves. Once more they would march out under U.S. colors, laying their lives on the line. Surely now the hard edge of hatred would soften.

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