Based the Hilltop neighborhood of Tacoma, it’s a small museum, considering the outsized contributions of the group of soldiers that are its subject. One of only two museums in the country dedicated solely to bringing recognition to the Buffalo Soldiers, the Buffalo Soldiers Museum comprises just six rooms, but packs them with the gravity of the accomplishments of the men (and one woman) of the all-black U.S. Army regiments formed in 1866.
The museum itself dates back to 2000, when former Buffalo Solider William Jones, who served in the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army during WWII, decided to organize and display the memorabilia he and his comrades-in-arms had collected during their service. With Jones’ passing in 2009, his daughter Jackie Jones-Hook took over the role of executive director and in 2012, she guided the museum into its new Hilltop location.
“He founded the museum because he had the experience of being a Buffalo soldier,” Jones-Hook said. “But also he wanted to leave some history for the citizens of Tacoma to know and to understand the great contributions that the Buffalo Soldiers made to history and made to America.”
Formally called the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers Museum, its exhibitions focus on the lives, legacies and contributions of black soldiers to the military and to the building of the country, but they also go back further, prior to the founding of the Buffalo Soldiers. A full room is dedicated to casting light on the road that led from the time of slavery to when African Americans were able to join the United States military.
The Buffalo Soldiers Museum also gives a nod to the history of the unit in Pierce County. An exhibit includes memorabilia from Buffalo Soldiers’ participation in the 1904 American Lake Maneuvers that took place in what is now the city of DuPont. These successful joint maneuvers between the U.S. Army, the Washington National Guard and the Oregon National Guard led the Army to select the area to become Fort Lewis, and what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
For more information about the museum, click here.