Winooski & The Buffalo Soldiers: A Celebration of Black History Month
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In mid-summer of 1909, the Tenth United States Cavalry Regiment arrived in Vermont for a four-year tour-of-duty. The "Fighting Tenth," as they were known, had charged up San Juan Hill with Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders and fought bravely in the Philippines. In July, they arrived in New York City, where they were celebrated as heroes in a ticker-tape parade ending in City Hall Park. The next morning this remarkable force would set off to Vermont, where their welcome would be met with fear. Why? The "Fighting Tenth" were one of four all-African American regiments created in 1866, called the "Buffalo Soldiers," they were noted for their distinguished service on the Western frontier. The nickname, some say, may have been given to them by Native Americans for their ferocious fighting skills and "woolly" hair--both highly prized characteristics of the bison.
In 1900, the entire African American population of Vermont was 826. Now, the State was to receive a force of 750 enlisted men with a large camp following, notably their families, that would bring the total number of new African Americans in Vermont to around 1,500. The Burlington Free Press disapproved, saying that the town was "up in arms." In fact, residents had mixed opinions about the arrival of these new residents. As in other towns where the Buffalo Soldiers were stationed, "wherever they went, the black soldiers faced fear and suspicion and had to demonstrate good behavior to win the acceptance of the white population," according to historian David Work.