Buffalo Soldiers Museum in Houston, Texas
Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
Before ever entering the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston, Texas admirers of architecture would certainly like the outward appearance of this impressive building. There are two medallions attached to this edifice. The one by the entrance door nearest the parking lot reads as follows:
Houston Light Guard Armory
Designed by noted Houston architect Alfred C. Finn, the armory was constructed in 1925 to replace an 1892 building that had become obsolete.
Finn detailed the building to suggest a late Renaissance Period Neo-Gothic English Masonry, represented by the alternating bands of brick and stone and elaborate relief panels above the arched entrance. The building has been owned by the Houston Light Guard, The State of Texas, and the Houston Community College.
Recorded Texas Historic Landmark – 1992
There is even more information on the Texas Historical Commission Official Historical Medallion on the front of the building. The information on that medallion (for those who may never get the chance to read it) is the following:
Texas Historical Commission
The Houston Light Guard
Organized as a Texas Militia Unit on April 27, 1873, the Houston Light Guard originally participated in parades, ceremonies, and competitive drills and served as guard of honor for visiting dignitaries. The first commander was Capt. Edwin Fairfax Gray (1829-1884). Then the city engineer of Houston. During the 1880s the Guard, dressed in uniforms of red coats and red-plumed helmets, became known as a leader in drill competitions throughout the United States. Prize money funded their first armory in 1891.
In 1898 the guard was activated for service with United States troops in the Spanish – American War. After participating in the punitive expedition against Mexico, 1916-1917, the unit joined U.S. forces fighting in Europe during World War I.
The Guard built a new armory at this site in 1925 and deeded it to the State of Texas in 1939. The next year the unit was again activated and during WWII saw action in seven campaigns in Africa and Europe. As part of the 36th Infantry Division, Guard members were among the first American troops in Europe during the war. Now part of the National Guard, the Houston Light Guard represents a proud heritage of distinguished military service. (1982)
Thus before ever entering this museum one has a sense of how long a time our African American soldiers have been engaged in wars fighting on the side of the U.S. During a great portion of this time they did not have equal rights. That did not deter them! As a matter of fact the “Buffalo Soldier” nickname applied to them came from their fierce fighting spirit.
The Cheyenne Indians had great respect for buffalo which used to roam the plains freely and in great herds. If ever backed into a corner, the buffalo never ceased fighting until its dying breath. When in combat the first black American soldiers showed this same type of courage.
Thus the “Buffalo Soldier” nickname stuck and became applied to all African American soldiers from the 1800s through WWII.
It was in 1866 through an act of congress that the very first all African American military units were created. In the beginning they were sent to desolate locations such as Fort Davis in West Texas.
Around 185,000 of these black soldiers served in the Union Army during the Civil War helping to free some of their own people from slavery.
In the beginning, until they had more than proven their valor and bravery in battle, they were assigned menial jobs and faced discrimination just as existed in the general population.
Pictures are allowed to be taken in the entrance level but not past double doors. So all of the photos shown here were in sanctioned areas for photography.
There is a theater within this Buffalo Soldiers Museum at a lower level. The film is shown continuously and it is well worth the time to spend watching it. Display cases showing memorabilia are also in that room. The seating is comfortable.
Many of the items beyond those double doors are displayed in three rooms all connected to a hallway. On the walls of the hallway much artwork is shown. Taking the time to read about the art as well as photographs on display can be very educational.
In the three rooms are many more display cases. Some items are out in the open and not behind glass. Old canon balls to various types of guns can be found. Also on display in one of the rooms are vintage items such as crocks, old metal irons and more household items of the past.
Uniforms and helmets can be viewed as well as photographs of the modern day buffalo soldiers…our astronauts. Thirteen photos of them are prominently displayed!
The goal of the Buffalo Soldiers Museum is to educate the youth of today as well as preserving the history of the significant contributions men and women of color have contributed to protecting the United States of America.
Proportionately very few members of our population serve in the military today. We must always honor those who have given so much of themselves in defending this nation of ours and those who still elect to do so today.
Many of the spaces within this non-profit institution can be rented for various occasions such as banquets and galas, meetings and seminars, weddings and other uses. Spaces ranging from 825 square feet up to 3,500 square feet are available. Arrangements can be made to view the spaces and/or plan a special event by calling 713-942-8920.
There is some wonderful artwork inside of the Buffalo Soldier Museum. Eddie Dixon was the sculptor of the bust called “The Old Soldier” created in 1993. The following information was taken from the framed information at the base of the bust.
The bronze bust was donated to the museum by William and Elizabeth Hayden, founders of the Museum of American Art in Paris Texas. “The Old Soldier” depicts First Sergeant William Moses, a recipient of the Medal of Honor in 1881. The bust stands 27 inches tall, is 18 inches wide, and 15 inches in depth.
It is a beauty!
There is a gift shop within the museum offering all kinds of books, posters, t-shirts and mementos.
Outside of the building is a mounted bell. It also has history! Built into the brick under the bell is a plaque which was undoubtedly embedded in the original structure. The date for the Mallalieu Chapel M.E. Church is November 26, 1899. The original founders names are also listed.
Written on a black plaque attached to the bell is the following: Mallalieu Methodist Church was founded in 1885 in the first ward of Houston, TX. Members and leadership of the church had a relationship with the African – American soldiers and leadership at U.S. Army Camp Logan. Following the Houston Riots in 1919, and the closing of Camp Logan,the church secured permission to claim and repurpose the wood from the demolished buildings at the army base. The wood was hauled by horse drawn wagons to the site of the church at 1918 Hickory Street. The new church was completed in 1926, using wood from Camp Logan and erecting the original 19th century bell, honoring both those who served at Camp Logan and the original founders.
The expansive Memorial Park in Houston is the current location of what used to be Camp Logan.
Hopefully this has given you some idea of what there is to see and learn at the Houston Buffalo Soldiers Museum. It is open from 10 A.M to 5 P.M. Monday to Friday and 10 to 4 on Saturdays. Admission is free from 1 PM to 5 PM on Thursdays. The address of the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum is 3816 Caroline Street, Houston, Texas 77004.