The monument was gifted to West Point by the Buffalo Soldiers Association of West Point, who raised up to $1 million over the course of five years to complete the project.
Given their nickname by Native Americans, the Buffalo Soldiers were members of six all-Black cavalry regiments of the U.S. Army who served in the western United States from 1867 to 1896. They played a pivotal role in the westward expansion of the United States and later taught military horsemanship to white cadets at West Point for 40 years.
Created by sculptor Eddie Dixon and erected on Buffalo Soldier Field, the 10-foot-tall bronze statue depicts a Buffalo Soldier on a horse to convey the "horsemanship expertise that was provided to future Army officers," the academy said.
In 1992, Dixon, a former member of the military, also created the Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth, KS. At the unveiling, he spoke about the importance of discovering the accomplishments of the Buffalo Soldiers.
“When I was coming up we had no role models that we could talk to,” Dixon said. “We didn’t know we had Buffalo Soldiers.”
“If we had known about that it would have made a difference,” he added. “ Now they have a historical, tangible reference point.”
The monument has already been installed at the military academy and was officially unveiled during a ceremony on September 10.
U.S. Military Academy 60th Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the first African-American to hold the position, remarked about the significance of the monument.
“These Soldiers embodied the West Point motto of Duty, Honor, Country and ideals of the Army Ethic,” Williams said in a statement obtained by CNN. “This monument will ensure that the legacy of Buffalo Soldiers is enduringly revered, honored and celebrated while serving as an inspiration for the next generations of cadets.”
The monument will also be the first outdoor statue of a Black soldier at West Point. The news of its unveiling comes during the same week as the largest monument dedicated to a Confederate general was removed.
Sgt. Maj. Sa’eed Mustafa, whose great-uncle Sgt. Leon Tatum was a Buffalo Soldier, believes that the monument will help the all-Black regiment receive the recognition that they deserve.
“These men trained cadets who then went on to be leaders in the Army as commissioned officers,” Mustafa said. “And yet they were never ever given their just due.”