SUMMARY: An elderly African-American man thinks back on his life as a Buffalo Soldier in the United States Army, from being freed from slavery in 1865, to getting an education and army training, to fighting in wars. This story will help readers appreciate those who are able to overcome obstacles and live a successful life.
1) Discuss slavery in America and the life of slaves.
2) What restrictions were placed on slaves? [Not allowed to read or write; not allowed to travel freely; not allowed to vote; not allowed to carry guns]
3) Discuss the American Civil War and its outcome. [Emancipation Proclamation; South devastated; Reconstruction; over 600,000 men killed]
4) Discuss the plight of most slaves after the Civil War [No jobs; sharecroppers; few opportunities to advance]
5) Discuss the Westward Expansion after the Civil War. Why did so many southerners want to move West? How did they travel?
6) Discuss the plight of Native Americans after the Civil War. [On reservations; buffalo gone; hungry; raided farms and ranches for cattle]
7) Explain what a western frontier fort was and why they were established [Protect settlers; protect mail carriers, stagecoaches, survey crews; help build roads]
8) Using stick-on stars, locate several western forts on a large US map.
9) Show photo of a buffalo and explain its importance to the American Indians.
10) Why did Plains Indians call the black soldiers "Buffalo Soldiers?"
BEFORE READING THE STORY:
AFTER READING THE STORY:
1) Why did Mama cry when she heard the war was over? [She was happy to learn she and her family were free.]
2) Although President Abraham Lincoln declared an Emancipation Proclamation in January 1862, slaves in Texas did not receive word until June 19, 1865. That day was called "Juneteenth." Why is Juneteenth now celebrated by African-Americans all across America?
3) Why would the US Army encourage former slaves to enlist and go west? [After the Civil War, there was a great shortage of men willing to join the army; most men were tired of being soldiers; Southern white men were not allowed to join the US Army or carry weapons.]
4) What were some of the things soldiers had to learn to do [Ride horses; shoot guns; learn military commands]
5) Why did black soldiers go to school at the forts? [To get an education; slaves were not allowed to read and write]
6) Why did soldiers need to be literate? [Sergeants needed to read orders written on paper]
7) What role did stagecoaches play in western expansion? Why did bandits often attack stage coaches? [Coaches carried passengers, mail, packages, gold and soldier's salaries.] What was the name of some famous stage coach line [Wells Fargo or Butterfield]
8) Why did Indians often leave the reservations and attack farmers and ranchers? [All the buffalo were killed by the white men; Indians wanted cattle for food and wanted horses to trade]
9) Explain the difference between the way the Indians hunted buffalo and the way the white men hunted them [Indians only hunted what they could eat; they used all the parts of the buffalo, even hides and hooves; they hunted on horseback. White men (buffalo runners) used rifles and automatic weapons; they took only the hide and left the carcass to rot; they often shot the buffalo from trains for sport; they purposefully tried to eliminate the buffalo so Indians would starve.]
10) Buffalo Soldiers helped railroad crews survey the western regions. What effect did the arrival of railroads and trains have on the American West? [Railroads connected west and east; they made cattle drives obsolete; they made stagecoaches and wagon trains obsolete; they allowed the West to be settled much faster]
11) Was the main character in this story smart to save his money? Explain how sacrificing for the long run will bring rewards later.
12) Explain that the last battle of the Indian Wars took place at Wounded Knee, South Dakato in 1890. After that, the Indians stayed on the reservations and did not fight again.
13) What famous event incited the Spanish American War? [The sinking of the USS MAINE in Cuba]. What were the results of that war? [US obtained Puerto Rico and Guam and purchased The Philippines; Cuba gained its independence from Spain].
14) In WWII, the US Army finally stopped using horses. Name some equipment that took the place of horses [Jeeps, tanks, trucks, armored vehicles].
15) Have students make up a fictitious Buffalo Soldier and write a letter home for him describing some daily activities.
The websites below have lots of information about Buffalo Soldiers, and some also include Teacher's Guides.
THE BUFFALO SOLDIER
illustrated by Ronald Himler
Cobblestone Magazine -- The February 1995 issue focuses on Buffalo Soldiers.