Buffalo Soldiers exhibit honors Black History Month
BRECKENRIDGE – When you think of Western history, African-Americans usually aren’t the first to come to mind.But this month, the Barney Ford House Museum in Breckenridge honors the black soldiers of the 10th Cavalry who fought against cattle thieves, outlaws and Native-Americans.The museum displays “Buffalo Soldiers,” an exhibit of military artifacts and photos of military camps, individual soldiers and military units.”I think it’s important for people to understand our history and particularly our black history,” said Carol Craig, museum director. “At the Barney Ford House Museum, our goal is to expose people to the history of the West, particularly the African-Americans in the West.”
The museum opened last summer. Elias Nashold built the Barney Ford House in 1882. With its bay window and hand-jigsawed, diamond-shaped insets, people considered the wooden cottage one of the showplaces of Breckenridge.Ford was born to a plantation slave in Virginia in 1822. He escaped enslavement by fleeing to Chicago via the Underground Railway in 1848.Three years later, he bought a hotel and later came to Breckenridge in search of gold. He was a prominent businessman in Breckenridge and Denver, and instrumental in securing blacks’ right to vote in the Colorado constitution.So what better place to celebrate Black History Month with “Buffalo Soldiers” than Ford’s house?The “Buffalo Soldiers” Exhibit is on loan from the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center in Denver and runs through April 1.
In 1866, Congress established four regiments of African-American soldiers totaling about 13,000 troops.They served in Texas, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Utah and Montana in “The Winning of the West.” While some causes, such as fighting cattle thieves, were noble, others involved protecting the rights of settlers who ultimately took over Native-American land. Nevertheless, the 10th Cavalry became a legend in Western history. For a while, it was the only military force in west Texas. It made the first thorough exploration of Texas’ Staked Plains and patrolled Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. The work of the troops was not limited to fighting; they built frontier posts and laid the foundation for future cities.
The black troops were continually discriminated against and scorned by white people, whom they had to protect.Ironically, the Native-Americans, against whom the soldiers fought, gave them the name that their units retained. The Barney Ford House Museum is located at 111 E. Washington Ave. in Breckenridge. Museum hours are 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays through April 1. Admission is free with a suggested donation. For more information, call (970) 453-5761. Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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