After the ratification of the 14th Amendment by Congress in 1868 granting full citizenship to Black men, many of them enlisted in the military. But they faced structural and social barriers to equal opportunity and fair treatment. Black soldiers helped lead the United States expansion westward; they helped build and guard transcontinental railroads and served as park rangers in places like Yosemite before the U.S. government established the National Park Service.
Buffalo Soldiers: Fighting on Two Fronts, an award-winning documentary produced and directed by Dru Holley, weaves together the testimony of historians, experts and descendants of Buffalo Soldiers with archival photographs, reenactments and animation to tell the story of how newly free Black Americans enlisted in the U.S. Army, a reliable path to income and greater respect, and in the process helped to both fulfill America’s Manifest Destiny and disrupted the lives of Indigenous peoples.
These Black soldiers fought bravely in the Indian Wars, the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American War, the Mexican Punitive Expedition, World War I, World War II and the Korean War. However, the Buffalo Soldiers also participated in the subjugation of Indigenous peoples as the United States appropriated tribal land, the persecution of striking silver miners in Idaho, and against Filipinos fighting for independence during the Spanish-American War, resulting in a complicated legacy.