Honorable Duty

Graphic image of Buffalo Soldier on horse

Welcome to Honorable Duty: The Moral Dilemma of the Buffalo Soldiers. This special toolkit is designed to supplement your unit on the Spanish American War, the War for Independence in the Philippines, and American Expansionism in the Pacific. It also can be utilized for studies of civil rights and institutional racism during the early 20th century. Resources in this packet introduce students to the African American soldiers who served in segregated army units during the early 1900s, and were among the first to patrol national parks in California.

Honorable Duty is framed by the essential question: In what ways did the exemplary military service of the Buffalo Soldiers enable the doctrine of white supremacy? In this toolkit, you will find lessons designed by National Park Service and classroom educators, teaching materials, and recommendations for further research.

Students will use historical analysis and critical thinking skills as they consider expansionism through the eyes of the African American soldiers and press. Using these resources, students also can conduct research into primary and secondary sources that continue the story of African Americans in the 20th century. With this deeper understanding, students can prepare themselves to participate in the national debate on the quest by other racial, cultural, and sexual minorities to obtain full citizenship through military enlistment.



Introduce your students to the dilemma of the Buffalo Soldiers with two investigations:

Investigation #1: How do omissions in the historic record influence my understanding of history? This investigation includes a series of quotations (click each separately): 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Investigation #2: How were dissonant opinions within African American communities voiced and received? This investigation includes a 10-minute audio.

Teaching Materials

Here are a series of teaching tools that allow you to design your own lessons and student investigations:

Special 11-minute video on the Buffalo Soldiers from Ken Burns' America's Best Idea

Primary documents your students can select and analyze

Short article in English and Spanish about Buffalo Soldiers in Western Expansion

Power point that introduces your students to the Buffalo Soldiers

Windows Media video African American officer Charles Young and the Buffalo Soldiers (requires Windows Media Player Ver. 9 or greater)

Background information on the Buffalo Soldiers and their historic place in the Presidio of San Francisco and California's national parks

Buffalo Soldier exhibition and text

Relevant and reviewed online sources

A complete list of the Buffalo Soldiers buried at the Presidio National Cemetery

1903 Speech by Charles Young on the status of African Americans

For Your Information

Bibliography of secondary sources on Buffalo Soldiers and related topics

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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