A good day for Ken Pollard is when he’s in front of kids eager to learn about the history and legacy of the U.S. Army’s Buffalo Soldiers, who proved their fighting prowess on major battlefields in the late 1800s.
On Nov. 6, all of the elements for that good day fell into place for Pollard, of the Texas Buffalo Soldiers Association. He and his contingent were welcomed by students at L.A. Morgan Elementary School, all excited to learn about the nation’s first all-black Army regiments.
The school playground was converted to an Indian War Period Encampment, complete with tents, blankets, an African drum, cooking utensils and animal hides that included snake, coyote, beaver and of course, buffalo.
“What I feel is most important in sharing with the kids is that history is more than just words on paper,” said Pollard, a retired Texas Parks and Wildlife official, and Buffalo Soldier historian. “It’s (about) actual events and artifacts that they can touch and feel.
“That’s called ‘making memories,’ ” he added. “Whether it’s the saddle, the animals or the (livestock) skull, it excites the mind and excites them when they get back into the classroom.”
The Buffalo Soldiers originally planned to visit Galveston during the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, but the rainy weather put a damper on those plans. So, true to their word, they returned this month.
At the suggestion of Betty Massey of the Mary Moody Northen Endowment, one of the event sponsors, the Buffalo Soldiers agreed to visit L.A. Morgan and the Odyssey Academy. The endowment is one of the event sponsors, along with Reedy Chapel AME Church.
“I thought it was a great idea (to visit schools),” said Sharon Gillins, a genealogy and historical researcher. “It’s lost history and these young people were unfamiliar with it. It (encampment) allowed them to feel a connection to the history through their own individual heritage.”
For more information about the Buffalo Soldiers Heritage & Outreach Program, visit http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/programs/buffalo-soldiers/.
Photo: Kevin “Radar” Briscoe of Killeen and his wife, Sharon “Storm” Briscoe, put some final touches on encampment at L.A. Morgan Elementary School before a presentation to students. Photo by Bobby Stanton.