After years of fundraising, the US Military Academy at West Point will finally unveil a new monument dedicated to the Buffalo Soldiers, a group of Black soldiers who played a key role in the westward expansion of the United States.
The monument — a 10-foot-tall bronze statue depicting a Buffalo Soldier on a horse — has already been installed at the military academy, but will not be officially unveiled until a ceremony on September 10.
“These Soldiers embodied the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country and ideals of the Army Ethic,” said US Military Academy 60th Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams in a statement. “This monument will ensure that the legacy of Buffalo Soldiers is enduringly revered, honored and celebrated while serving as an inspiration for the next generations of cadets.”
In addition to their role in the westward expansion, the Buffalo Soldiers were also once stationed at West Point to give instruction in riding skills to the cadets, according to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. They taught at the academy for 40 years.
The reason why the monument, created by sculptor Eddie Dixon, depicts a trooper on a horse is to show the level of “horsemanship expertise that was provided to future Army officers,” the academy said.
The monument was gifted to West Point by the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, who raised up to $1 million over the course of five years for the project.
The monument will also be the first outdoor statue of a Black man at West Point. The news of its unveiling comes as statues of Confederate soldiers or politicians with racist histories are coming down in other parts of the country.
In December, Virginia leaders decided to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee from the US Capitol, replacing it with one of civil rights activist Barbara Johns. Earlier this summer, Charlottesville removed two Confederate statues from the city’s public parks.
At the same time, West Point’s student body has steadily become more diverse. In 2019, it graduated its largest class of Black women. Last year, a woman made history by becoming the first observant Sikh to graduate from the academy.
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