Sunday, April 24, 2016

Remembering the Buffalo Soldiers

by Glenn Nelson

Though the history of the Buffalo Soldiers is baked into the DNA of the National Park Service, their 150th anniversary, coming up June 28, has been overshadowed, to the brink of being ignored, by the agency’s centennial celebration. But a California lawmaker hopes to help change that.

The Buffalo Soldiers were four segregated black regiments of the U.S. Army, assigned to patrol Yosemite during the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were garrisoned at the Presidio of San Francisco during the winter and now, part of their route for summer patrol at Yosemite, on California Highway 41, is proposed for renaming in their honor.

As the precursors to national park rangers and backcountry rangers, and as attendants during the ground-breaking meetings between President Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir in Yosemite Valley, the Buffalo Soldiers helped set the stage, it can be argued, for the establishment of a system of U.S. national parks. And their story provides a critical bridge between public lands and communities of color, long a strained relationship.

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