Buffalo Soldier exhibit reopens
Story by: Pamela Redford
1ST INF. DIV. POST
Among the historical treasures maintained by Fort Riley's Museum Division is the newly remodeled "Buffalo Soldier" exhibit, featuring three of the post's most famous Soldiers and leaders with the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments.
The 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments – all African-American Army regiments – were established by Congress after the Civil War.
The display, "Buffalo Soldiers, Past and Present," which reopened May 2, is located downstairs in the Cavalry Museum, Building 205 on Main Post and features photographs, original artwork, a guidon, winter gloves and a hat and coat worn by Buffalo Soldiers. All of the items are originals from the 1870s and 1880s.
Robert Smith, museum director, Fort Riley Museums, said the 1st Infantry Division wanted to refocus the exhibit to highlight notable Buffalo Soldiers and their contributions to the cavalry.
"What we're most pleased about is that we were able to highlight the career of Albert Curley," he said.
Curley, retired first sergeant and a resident of Junction City, is the last surviving former Buffalo Soldier in the Central Flint Hills Region, Smith said. After voluntarily joining the Army in 1940 at age 18, Curley was stationed with Troop A, 9th Horse Cavalry at Fort Riley.
He went on to fight in Italy during World War II, and also served in Japan, Germany, Korea and Vietnam, before retiring in 1969. Curley earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, among many other awards and decorations.
"Mr. Curley is very well known to Fort Riley, and he's just a delight," Smith said.
Also highlighted in the display is Henry Ossian Flipper, the first African-American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1877.
A former slave, Flipper was stationed with the 10th Cavalry at Fort Riley following his commissioning. He also became the first black officer to command Buffalo Soldiers. Before Flipper, the regiments were led by white officers.
General of the Armies John J. Pershing, who commanded the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, also is showcased in the exhibit. He commanded the 10th Cavalry in the 1890s and was considered a champion of African-American Soldiers throughout his career.
In addition to the Buffalo Soldier exhibit, plans for a new exhibit entitled, "Women and Children on the Frontier Post" are underway, Smith said.
"We have really nothing about women and children in this museum, and they were a big part of the post frontier days," he said.
The Museum Division is currently collecting artifacts and researching the period to rectify the issue with a dedicated exhibit.
Artifacts will include clothing, labor-saving devices, like a wooden wash tub with a crank, children's toys and games, as well as other items. The exhibit should open by late fall or early winter, Smith said.
Work also will continue on the 1st Inf. Div. Museum when the WWII gallery is remodeled this year, Smith said.
"We're keeping busy," he said. "We want to keep it fresh so people come, and maybe a year later, they come again, and they will see something different … we're constantly changing things."
To contact the museum call 785-239-2737 or visit http://www.riley.army.mil/UnitPage.aspx?unit=DPTMS.Museum for more information.