AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Buffalo Soldiers were a large part of American history and western expansion. Now, one woman is keeping their memory alive by recreating their life and sharing their story across the United States.
In the 1800s, the United States Army grew. For the first time in U.S. history, African-Americans were allowed to be a part of the U.S. Army.
“Congress passed the law July 28, 1866,” said Historian Rosieleeta Reed, “Congress passed the Army Reorganization Act that allowed for black men to join the army because before then it was against the law for a black man to be in the army.”
For many, this was an amazing achievement in our nation’s history. Something Reed dedicates her time to share with others, as her parents shared it with her
“I’m a descendant of a Buffalo Soldier. I learned these stories from my grandfather. His father was a Buffalo Soldier and his two uncles,” said Reed.
Many soldiers dressed in blue now held their heads high being part of something they were once only allowed to volunteer for, but one of those soldiers had a secret. Soldier William Cathey was a woman.
“She was 16 years old and she snuck into the army, and she stayed there for two-in-a-half years,” said Reed.
Cathey wasn’t the only one.
“She’s not the first and she’s not the only. She’s the only one who kept her documents. There were 400 women who snuck into the army in the 1800s, but she kept her discharge papers,” said Reed.
Those papers made Cathey the only documented woman in the army but she did not do it by herself.
“She couldn’t have been there and stayed there that long without help. She had 10 men that actually helped her, because you know when she had to go out on patrol, when she had to bathe, use the bathroom, she had to have somebody to help her,” said Reed.
Reed spends her time teaching younger generations about the nation’s first African-American men and women who served. She even recreates Cathey’s life in what she calls living history.
“I dress in the uniform that Cathey wore. I have all the equipment that they have. They get to see the history, they smell the history. That’s why it’s called hidden history,” said Reed.
Reed said she hopes to inspire younger generations to learn the history of the Buffalo Soldiers and inspire young women to do whatever they set their minds to, just like William Cathey.
Reed said she travels to several schools throughout the panhandle to try and stress the importance of Buffalo Soldiers in West Texas.
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