Audio/Visual – Bob Marley & The Wailers – Buffalo Soldier

One People
One People

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Buffalo Soldier

A rich man’s war but a poor man’s fight”

Were the Buffalo Soldiers recruited purely to conquer another people that the white man oppressed while in search of freedom?

The Buffalo Soldiers history documents a harsh story of slavery, abuse, forceful persuasion and a devastating war created by the white man to exterminate a very similar people to the black soldiers. A connection between Bob Marley’s song Buffalo Soldier, Rastafarian beliefs, African and Caribbean slaves provide facts of war in the name of freedom. Buffalo Soldier regiments were involved in historical battles that were ferocious and brutal against many different tribes of Native Americans. New white settlers pushed a majority of Native Americans out of their land enabling the white man to expand into the south and west, but this could not be accomplished without the exploitation of black men. The name Buffalo Soldier came out of respect from Native Americans who considered these black men to be brave and fierce just like the tribes sacred buffalo. It is also said that The Plains Indians thought that the hair of the black soldiers resembled the fur of the buffalo.

10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers
10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers

Private Randall suffered a gunshot wound to his shoulder and 11 lance wounds, but recovered. The Cheyenne quickly spread word of this new type of soldier, “who had fought like a cornered buffalo; who like a buffalo had suffered wound after wound, yet had not died; and who like a buffalo had a thick and shaggy mane of hair” (Starr 1981:46)”

Bob Marley’s song Buffalo Soldier is a historical anthem that pays homage to the African men who were strongly influenced into joining the American Army. These men, suffered discrimination in pay and in duty, faced constant threat of death or return to slavery. They were sent into battle with very little training, given outdated and inferior weapons, provided insufficient medical attention and were repeatedly harassed and physically abused by white soldiers. The song’s lyrics and video combine Rastafarian beliefs, black slavery and a very tragic fight for freedom.

Rastafarian Elder Mortimer Planno
Rastafarian Elder Mortimer Planno
  • The Rastafarian movement originated in Jamaica

  • 98% of Jamaica’s population are descended from victims of the Atlantic slave trade

  • The Rastafarian Nyabinghi Order is named after Queen Nyabinghi of Uganda who fought against white European colonialists

  • The red, gold and green colours of the Rastafarian flag is said to reflect slavery, red for the blood of the martyrs, gold for the stolen wealth and green representing the land of Africa

  • Up to 700,000 enslaved Africans were brought to Jamaica

Rastafarian Flag surviving slavery
Rastafarian Flag surviving slavery

The white man was the first to encounter Native American Indians at a time where the white man had already invaded and conquered new lands, slaughtering and enslaving people. Around 600,000 African slaves were taken to America. Africans were kidnapped, held at gun point during raids and taken into slavery. During a 200 year rampage, led by the white man, African people faced horrifying abuse such as whipping, shackling, hanging, beating, burning, mutilation, imprisonment, starvation, branding, sexual abuse and rape. Entire African families were taken from their homes in Africa and forced on boats in huge amounts not knowing what was in store for them, many died at sea and many died of new diseases passed on by the white man. Africans were much the same as Native Americans, they were both a free spirited, peaceful and serene people who only wanted to live in harmony with white settlers. Africans who joined the United States army were used to exterminate Native Americans and their culture when all they were really looking for was opportunity to roam and explore. This so-called job opportunity was regarded as the closet thing the African man had to freedom since being “Stolen from Africa” but in reality they were just another group of people that were used purely for the white man to divide and conquer a similar people.

Freedom 4 Fighting!!
Freedom 4 Fighting!!

In 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation enabled free blacks and escaped slaves to join the Union Army in which around 190,000 volunteered, largely through the white man’s use of aggression. Of these, more than 33,000 died. During 1866 two cavalry and four infantry regiments were established. The 9th and 10th Cavalries explored and scouted 34,420 miles of uncharted terrain, opened more than 300 miles of new roads and laid over 200 miles of telegraph lines, they were also responsible for subduing Mexican revolutionaries, hostile Native Americans, outlaws and comancheros. This was also accomplished over some of the most rugged and inhospitable country in North America. Toward the end of 1867, the 9th Cavalry engaged nearly 1,000 Kickapoos, Lipans, and Mexicans at abandoned Fort Lancaster. Although they were outnumbered 12 to 1, the black soldiers managed to drive off the attackers, killing at least 20 and wounding many more. The black unit suffered only three casualties during this particular battle. In late 1875, the 9th Cavalry received orders transferring the regimental headquarters to Santa Fe, New Mexico. For the next 6 years, the regiment was scattered at posts throughout the region, during this time the black soldiers were forced to fight the Native Americans with only half their authorised strength.

Geronimo (right) with his warriors in 1886
Geronimo (right) with his warriors in 1886

“The 9th Cavalry remained in Texas for 8 years. Their primary missions were to protect the mail and stage route from San Antonio to El Paso, establish law and order in the border region, and prevent Indian raids. In other words, “to help pave the way for the western advance of civilisation, and to add their part in the great work of opening to settlement the vast resources of the great West” (Hutcheson 1896:283)”

Buffalo Soldiers served on the western frontier continuously during the last 30 years of the Indian Wars. The African regiments clashed with Cheyennes, Sioux, Arapahos, Kiowas, Comanches, Utes, and Apaches in Oklahoma, the Dakotas, Colorado, Montana, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. They also served in Wyoming, Utah, Nebraska, and Kansas. The Buffalo Soldiers fought more than 125 engagements. The black regiments were frequently ordered to return hostile Indian tribes to their reservations. These activities created feelings of moral dilemma and a sense of irony for some of the black troops, since many were former slaves.

After the assault on Fort Wagner …. there was no longer any doubt about using Negro troops to crush the rebellion”

Following the first Buffalo Soldiers, African American regiments later served in the Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, Mexican Punitive Expedition, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Over 3,000 Buffalo Soldiers served with distinction on the battlefields of Las Guasimas, El Caney, and San Juan Hill. Although the Spanish war was promoted as a fight to liberate Caribbean and Philippine islanders from Spanish oppression, the participation of Buffalo Soldier’s was controversial within the African American community. Blacks questioned whether they, who were deprived of civil rights by federal and state laws and were being lynched and terrorised in the South, should fight overseas for a government that recognised them as citizens in name only. During the Philippine War there were mixed emotions within the African American community of the United States. Many black leaders and newspapers supported Filipino independence and felt it was wrong for the United States to subjugate black men in what was perceived to be the beginnings of a colonial empire. Some African Americans felt that a good showing by black troops in the Philippines would help their cause for equality.

Buffalo Soldier Frontline Soldiers
Buffalo Soldier Frontline Soldiers
  • British people have invaded 188 countries out of 200
  • It is estimated that 80-90% of Native American Indians died after the arrival of Europeans, thousands were deliberately killed
  • 1894 Census documents nearly 30,000 Native American Indians killed between 1789 – 1846, the actual number of killed and wounded would be much higher
  • With the exception of one company of infantryman, all of the black units served solely in the Frontier Army
  • During the first World War over 350,000 African Americans served on the western front
  • The Vietnam War involved 275,000 African Americans of which 7,241 died

Buffalo Soldiers were fighting for survival and already fighting before arrival.”

The barbaric behaviour, that black slaves had no choice but to endure, was truly devastating. White Europeans were responsible for the breaking down and destroying of these human beings who are exactly the same as all the other human beings. The white man has used strong-arm tactics, torture and abuse on many different people during times of exploration and conquering. Black slaves that were made to feel a sense of freedom were actually tricked into serving as soldiers for a war that was not theirs. The military jobs had been made to seem like Africans involved would see freedom, instead they were used, to help the new white settlers almost eradicate an entire people facing the same situation as what they had just gone through. Unfortunately, after much involvement in America’s various wars, some African Americans have become very accepting to the belief that they can serve as American soldiers freely in the hopes of protecting their country.

Blacks considered military service a honourable occupation, perceived the Army would provide protection from harsh laws, and southern injustices perpetuated by lynchings and Jim Crow statues”

Fighting for Survival
Fighting for Survival

Buffalo Soldiers Lineage:

28 July 1866 in the Regular Army as 10th Cavalry.
Organised 21 September 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Assigned to 1st Cavalry Division 13 September 1921-18 December 1922.

Assigned to 2nd Cavalry Division 24 March 1923-15 August 1927.

Assigned to 3rd Cavalry Division 15 August 1927-10 October 1940.

Assigned 10 October 1940 to 2nd Cavalry Division.

Inactivated 20 March 1944 in North Africa.
Re-designated 20 October
1950 as 510th Tank Battalion and relieved from
assignment to
2nd Cavalry Division.

Activated 27 November 1950 at Camp Polk, Louisiana.

Inactivated 2 May 1958 in Germany.
Reorganised and re-designated
25 June 1958 as 10th Cavalry, a parent regiment under the Combat Arms regimental System (headquarters and Headquarter Company, 510th Tank Battalion, re-designated as Headquarters and Headquarters Troops, 10th Cavalry).


Indian Wars Mexican Expedition

Comanches Mexico 1916-1917
Apaches New Mexico
War With Spain

Philippine Insurrection

World War II
Philippine Insurrection

References (2016). American Civil War Facts, information, pictures | articles about American Civil War. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Jaide, D. (2012). Continuity in African Culture: From Ancient Egypt to the Benin Empire and the Diaspora | Rasta Livewire. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016]. (2016). Buffalo Soldier. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016]. (2016). Buffalo Soldiers. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

The Public Domain Review. (2016). Geronimo: The Warrior. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). American Civil War. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Buffalo Soldier. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Buffalo Soldier (song). [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Treatment of slaves in the United States. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2016].