Recre­at­ing black his­tory

Schools close month by honor­ing black Amer­i­cans

The Covington News - - School Beat - By Jenny Thompson

Sev­eral New­ton County Schools closed Black His­tory Month with pre­sen­ta­tions and events Fri­day.

Mem­bers of the Greater At­lanta Chap­ter of the Buf­falo Sol­diers came to Por­terdale El­e­men­tary School Fri­day morn­ing to tell stu­dents about the of­ten forgotten black mem­bers of the 19th and 20th Cen­tury United States Army.

Trooper Bruce Milligan ex­plained to the stu­dents how the Buf­falo Sol­diers came to be.

He said af­ter slav­ery was abol­ished in the mid-1800’s black men and­women had a hard time find­ing work.

“The mil­i­tary paid them $13 a month and that was a lot of money back then,” Milligan said.

Even­tu­ally leg­is­la­tion was passed cre­at­ing all-black cavalry reg­i­ments the 9th, 10th, 24th and 25th. The reg­i­ments served in the CivilWar and then were sent to the west­ern fron­tier.

“Part of their jobs were to pro­tect stage­coaches, build and guard the rail­road and lay tele­graph wire over miles and miles of rough and rugged ter­rain,” Milligan said.

They bat­tled Amer­i­can In­di­ans and cow­boy out­laws and Milligan gave them credit for as­sist­ing the ex­pan­sion of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion to­ward the Pa­cific Coast.

Milligan said their equip­ment and horses were of­ten used and out­dated.

“How­ever, they main­tained and did what they had to do,” Milligan said, “and they be­came fa­mous for it.”

Ac­cord­ing to Milligan, the Buf­falo Sol­diers re­ceived their name from Amer­i­can In­di­ans who had never en­coun­tered black peo­ple be­fore.

“They said, ‘we met a dif­fer­ent type of sol­dier and th­ese sol­diers had war paint that did not come off,’” Milligan said.

He said they also re­ceived the name be­cause of their coura­geous­ness and tenac­ity in bat­tle when backed into a tight spot, much like the be­hav­ior of a rag­ing bull buf­falo.

Cor­po­ral Frenchie Sharpe ex­plained how a wo­man dis­guised her­self as a man to serve as the first fe­male Buf­falo sol­dier in the 38th U.S. in­fantry di­vi­sion in 1866.

Cathay Wil­liams was a for­mer slave and worked as a ser­vant for a Union gen­eral dur­ing the CivilWar where she learned much about the life of a sol­dier.

Be­cause of the good pay of a sol­dier, she de­cided to flip her nam and en­list asWil­liam Cathay.

She served for two years with no one know­ing her true iden­tity un­til she be­came sick with small pox and af­ter a mutiny at Fort Cum­mings, de­cided she did not want to be a sol­dier any­more.

Ac­cord­ing to Sharpe, Wil­liams went to a hospi­tal for treat­ment of weak­ness while re­cov­er­ing from small pox and it was soon dis­cov­ered she was a wo­man.

On Oct. 14, 1868, she was hon­or­ably dis­charged as William Cathay.

“The more I read her his­tory the more she be­comes a hero to me,” Sharpe said.

Milligan also dis­cussed the last liv­ing orig­i­nal Buf­falo Sol­dier, Mark Matthews, who died in 2005. He was 113 when he died.

The Greater At­lanta Chap­ter of Buf­falo Sol­diers joined mem­bers from chap­ters in 23 other states to lay a wreath on Matthews’s grave at Ar­ling­ton Na­tional Ceme­tery.

He said many of to­day’s Buf­falo Sol­diers are de­scen­dents of the orig­i­nal sol­diers who served be­fore the mil­i­tary­was in­te­grated in 1951. He said to­day they present lec­tures, ride in pa­rades and per­form in rodeos. The chap­ter will host a rodeo in Au­gust at the Cony­ers Horse Park.

“What we try to do as mod­ern day Buf­falo Sol­dier’s,” Milligan said, “is we try to ed­u­cate chil­dren and adults about Buf­falo Sol­diers and other im­por­tant black Amer­i­cans.”

Many other schools cre­ated liv­ing “black wax mu­se­ums” on Fri­day.

Stu­dents in Kandice ThomasCrock­ett’s class at Cle­ments Mid­dle School struck poses as wax char­ac­ters, did spo­ken-word per- for­mances or wrote and per­formed orig­i­nal skits.

“They had to do the re­search,” Thomas-Crock­ett said. “I didn’t give them any­thing and they had to be able to take the third per­son re­search and turn it into a first per­son pre­sen­ta­tion.”

Fig­ures cho­sen for the wax mu­se­um­ranged from sports fig­ures to en­ter­tain­ers to re­li­gious lead­ers.

Skits in­cluded the cul­tural and phil­an­thropic con­tri­bu­tions of Oprah Wyn­frey, the his­tory of black mu­si­cians and the be­gin­ning of Madame C.J. Walker’s suc­cess­ful line of beauty prod­ucts de­signed for black­women, which even­tu­ally made her what is con­sid­ered the first self-made fe­male mil­lion­aire.

The stu­dents per­formed for other classes dur­ing the month and per­formed at Cle­ments’ first Par­ent Night.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Wax mu­seum: Stu­dents in Kandice Thomas- Crock­ett’s classes at Cle­ments Mid­dle School por­tray fa­mous black Amer­i­cans in a black wax mu­seum project. They are Alexis Mar­cial, front left, as Venus Wil­liams, Nyan­nah Brown as Vanessa Wil­liams, Jac­quez Wash­ing­ton as Louis Arm­strong, Asia Vann, back left, as Harriet Tub­man, Ni­cole White as Wilma Ru­dolph, Chelsie Tan­ner as Josephine Baker, Gma­treian Brown as Wilt Cham­ber­lain and Ash­ley Greene as Bil­lie Hol­i­day.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Mod­ern Buf­falo Sol­diers: Mem­bers of the Greater At­lanta Buf­falo Sol­diers Trooper Bruce Milligan, Cor­po­ral Frenchie Sharpe and Sgt. Ma­jor Lon­nie Sharpe share the his­tory of black Amer­i­cans who served in the United States mil­i­tary dur­ing the 19th and early 20th Cen­turies.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Re­mem­ber­ing the brave: Por­terdale El­e­men­tary stu­dents Ian An­crum, left, and Pre­ston Joiner browse through Buf­falo Sol­dier his­tory mem­o­ra­bilia brought to the school by mem­bers of the Greater At­lanta Chap­ter of the Buf­falo Sol­diers.

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