As a former soldier who spoke very little about his time as a prisoner of war in the Korean War, William Jones' request to preserve the memory of his time as a Buffalo Soldier is something his family took to heart. Following his death in 2009, his daughter, Jackie Jones-Hook, began formalizing a museum in honor of the all-black regiment of the United States military. Today, the Buffalo Soldier Museum in Tacoma is well on its way to becoming a haven for students and members of the community to learn about a piece of history that took place between 1866 and 1944 – and is all-too-often forgotten in the textbooks.
Formally called the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum, this nonprofit group hopes to educate the public through its vast collection of military artifacts, books, articles and DVDs from Jones' time in the military. The museum is one of only two of its kind in the country dedicated to honoring the Buffalo Soldiers.
During the Civil War, the United States government formed the all-black 9th and 10th Cavalry, tasked with the mission to subdue Mexican revolutionaries, hostile Native Americans, outlaws and more.
Several African-American regiments in the Civil War fought alongside the Union Army, but the Buffalo Soldiers were established by Congress as the first peacetime all-black regiment in the U.S. Army.
"This is a part of our history that is not well written about," Jones-Hook said. "It is strange to think that we had segregated militaries, but it's so important to remember and preserve history."
The museum is located in a cottage on the Jones property situated on the edge of the downtown museum district. Although Jones-Hook is still collecting items to showcase, the museum collection already consists of items any history buff will love. Pieces include Civil War-era rifles, helmets worn during combat, hand-written letters and official documents. Jones-Hook hopes to host field trips for local schools, where students can tour the War Room and learn more about this piece of history. "It was important to my father that children can see and learn about this time because they're so far removed from it today," Jones-Hook said.
She plans to tailor educational programs to meet the needs of certain grade levels and students visiting the museum. The museum itself will not offer a membership program, and accepts donations only. Its nonprofit status allows Jones-Hook to apply for grant funding and research other educational programs that may benefit the community.
"I'm looking forward to honoring veterans and educating local children on the early frontier while showing them that history can be interesting to learn about," she said. "If you can see and experience what you're learning about, it makes an impact."
The Buffalo Soldier Museum is located at 1940 S. Wilkeson St. The museum is open every Thursday from 1-4 p.m. and by appointment. To schedule a tour, call (253) 272-4257.