Family history had been a mystery to me prior to me “data mining” for my latest project “Moving Behind Moses – A poem celebrating African American Women’s Contributions to the United States Military”. My father didn’t talk much about his father, other than he left his mother. My father was actually raised by his grandmother in 1930’s Los Angeles (think victory garden and picking greens from the railroad tracks for eats.) My mother always talked about her father “pappa”. He was a career military officer – all I knew of him was a black and white picture in uniform that all of my aunts and uncles have. I never met him. He was an old man when my mom was born. My grandmother left my grandfather for a Filipino farmer in Salinas, California. My mother was essentially raised by her sisters. The Collier family had always held their heads metaphorically high – their father being a Buffalo Soldier – an officer in the 10th calvary, this was the equivalent of being a professional (albeit military) man. A big deal. My uncle Sarge has dedicated his life to keeping the legacy of the Buffalo Soldier alive, as well as keeping himself alive. His activities in meetings and dedications across the country over the last few decades is stunning. So it was a natural next step to talk to my mother to see if she would talk to her brother to talk to me about family history and military life. My mother said Uncle Sarge was the one to talk about family history; he probably had pictures I might be interested in for my research project. The attached was in his photo album, a picture of his uncle (my great uncle) in company M (circa 1911). I am still confused since I read online my uncle was in the 10th calvary, 1911. The photography clearly has 9th calvary hand written on the bottom.
Further intrigued, my creative research for my book led me to an anthology “Buffalo Soldiers in the west – A Black Soldiers Anthology” edited by Bruce A. Glasrud and Michael M. Searles. As written in the chapter Community of Soldiers, “by the late nineteenth century, athletics also became an entry to community activities, allowing blacks to engage with whites in positive ways…Overall, athletic events between white and black teams created a venue for interrelations between white and black, whether civilian or military, that was mostly positive. There were other results. In at least one instance, a black defeat of white teams led a white military officer to argue that blacks should not be allowed to compete (especially against whites) because it was unseemly for an inferior race to defeat a superior race.” page 219
To Uncle Chick Collier – I celebrate you and your glove this Black History Month!