Last Updated on November 17, 2022 by BVN

“I think it’s important for young [Black] people…, but also for people who are not Black; I think it’s important for them to know that Black people served a major part in this country’s history and in world history,” said Matthew Robinson, a filmmaker and Buffalo Soldier descendant.

Aryana Noroozi

In the weeks leading up to Veterans Day, Southern Californian descendants of Buffalo Soldiers gathered at the California African American Museum, where an exhibition on Buffalo Soldiers was featured. The gathering was facilitated by Donna Jackson-Houston, a descendant who last year discovered her grandfather’s history as a Buffalo Soldier.

Since then, she founded The Nogales Buffalo Soldiers Legacy Association, an organization dedicated to honoring the Buffalo Soldiers. Through extensive research and networking at Buffalo Soldier events, Jackson-Houston found other descendants across Southern California, including the Inland Empire, and continues to look for others. Her work is centered around raising awareness of the segregated troops that fought for the U.S., including pushing for an update in the educational curriculum.

“I started asking my cousins and my family and then we found out that on my husband’s side, his uncle was a Buffalo Soldier. And we didn’t even know that until we’re sitting there at his funeral, reading his obituary, and it says he’s a Buffalo Soldier from Fort Huachuca.”

“I think it’s really awakening people, this whole Buffalo Soldiers movement that Donna has started,” said Forescee Hogan-Rowles, a descendant who also recently discovered her family’s history of Buffalo Soldiers.

Black Voice News was able to make portraits of and speak individually with each descendant who gathered at the California African American Musuem’s Buffalo Soldier Exhibition. Their history is documented below.

If you are a descendant of a Buffalo Soldier or had a Black family member serve in the U.S. military prior to 1952, The Nogales Buffalo Soldiers Legacy Association would love to hear from you. They can be contacted at NogalesBuffaloSoldiers@gmail.com.

A visitor browses “For Race and Country: Buffalo Soldiers in California” exhibition at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles on October 29, 2022. The exhibition, which closed October 30th, was dedicated to the complex history of the Buffalo Soldiers in California.
A visitor browses “For Race and Country: Buffalo Soldiers in California” exhibition at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles on October 29, 2022. The exhibition, which closed October 30th, was dedicated to the complex history of the Buffalo Soldiers in California. Credit: Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local
A Buffalo Soldier Uniform is displayed at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles on October 29, 2022.
A Buffalo Soldier Uniform is displayed at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles on October 29, 2022. (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) Credit: Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local
Forescee Hogan-Rowles takes a photo of a map of the various military bases across California where Buffalo Soldier troops were stationed. The exhibition which closed on October 30 was dedicated to the complex history of the Buffalo Soldiers in California. (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local.) October 29, 2022).
Donna Jackson-Houston, Founder and President of Nogales Buffalo Soldiers Legacy Association, poses for a portrait at the traveling Buffalo Soldiers Exhibit she curated in Pomona on July 17, 2022. Since discovering that her grandfather was a Buffalo Soldier in Nogales, Jackson-Houston has made it a mission to connect with and find other descendants, gaining local and national attention on the topic in a push for curriculum change. “It is vital to know one’s history and to share our stories.”  (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).
Founder and President of Nogales Buffalo Soldiers Legacy Association, Donna Jackson-Houston holds a photo of her grandfather, Lucius Franklin Monroe Jackson, a Buffalo Soldier in the 25th Infantry of the U.S. Army stationed at Camp Little, Arizona. (Aryana Noroozi for Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local) July 17, 2022).
Matthew Robinson, a Buffalo Soldier descendant, poses for a portrait at the California African American Museum on October 29, 2022, where he visits the Buffalo Soldier exhibition a day before it closes. “Sometimes, I don’t think it’s maliciously done. But I often think it is malicious,” said Robinson about the lack of recognition of Black history and contributions. “At this point people just don’t even think to put it in the curriculum. But the curriculum is designed for that to happen” said Robinson, referring to the educational curriculum that does not fully capture Black History including the Buffalo Soldiers. Robinson’s great grandfather, Benjamin Blayton, served in the 325 Battalion in France where he learned to speak fluent French and cook French cuisine. Robinson said he learned that the French soldiers did not have a problem serving alongside Black soldiers. Blayton was awarded several medals including a Victory Medal. Robinson says he was able to discover his great grandfather’s legacy not only through oral history, but also through artifacts such as Blayton’s letters, service jacket and medals which Robinson’s family discovered after his passing. These artifacts are now a part of the Smithsonian Museum collection. (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).
Photograph of Corporal Benjamin Blayton in uniform, around 1918. “Over there” was a popular phrase referring to those serving overseas during World War I. Gift of Gwendolyn B. Robinson. Credit: National Museum of American History.
Benjamin Blayton’s World War I Victory medal with Meuse-Argonne and Defensive Sector battle clasps (left) and his District of Columbia World War Service Medal (right). Gift of Gwendolyn B. Robinson. Credit: National Museum of American History
Forescee Hogan-Rowles poses for a portrait on October 29, 2022. Hogan-Rowles recently found out about multiple Buffalo Soldiers in her family. A friend of Jackson-Houston’s, Hogan-Rowles looked into her own family’s history after Jackson-Houston made her discovery. Hogan-Rowles’s aunt was born and raised in Nogales, Arizona where Jackson-Houston’s family also originated. “One thing led to another and I started asking in my own family, ‘hey, do we have any Buffalo Soldiers?’ And yeah, our great uncle Cornelius was a Buffalo Soldier,” Hogan-Rowles says of her discovery. “He helped found Lincoln University. He was one of the Blacks that actually got a land grant from the federal government in 1865.” Hogan-Rowles says after slavery ended, her great uncle became a Buffalo Soldier during the war. In this discovery she also learned that her great uncle received 40 acres and a mule from the government and used it to start a church in 1896 which still stands today in Missouri where Hogan-Rowles’s family is from. “My grandmother, I always like to say, was the youngest of the oldest, because her mother lived to be 108. She died in 1953 and was born a slave,” Hogan-Rowles said. After being freed, “she walked from Kentucky to Missouri.” She says her great grandmother could not close her palms because she carried an infant for the two year journey.  (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).
A descendant, Forescee Hogan-Rowles, takes a photo of archival footage of Buffalo Soldiers marching.  The footage was featured at the California African American Museum on October 29, 2022. (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).
Visitors browse and take photos of the Buffalo Soldier exhibition at the California African American Museum on October 29, 2022. (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).
Dr. Larry Thorton poses for a portrait wearing Buffalo Soldier uniform. Three generations of Thorton’s family served in the segregated military. His great grandfather served in the Civil War, his grandfather was stationed in France, and his father served in World War II. Thorton, who owns and leads an accounting firm which specializes in consulting for nonprofits, is part of the Shadow Hills Chapter of the New Buffalo Soldiers, a reenactment group which highlights various time periods of Buffalo Soldiers. After having his portrait taken Thorton headed to the group’s rehearsal for the Rose Bowl Parade. (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local.)
Thorton holds an archival photo of Buffalo Soldiers on October 29, 2022.  Thorton’s family from Greensboro, North Carolina, including his great grandfather served in the Civil War, his grandfather was stationed in France, and his father served in World War II. “We want the public to be fully aware of what was not told or taught in colleges or high schools about the contributions of the Black soldiers,” he said. Today Thorton is working with the U.S. military to develop museums across California dedicated to Buffalo Soldier History.  (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).
Horses are readied to be transported to a Rose Bowl rehearsal on October 29, 2022 for a Los Angeles-based chapter of the New Buffalo Soldiers, a reenactment group that highlights various time periods of Buffalo Soldiers. (Aryana Noroozi, Black Voice News Newsroom / CatchLight Local).
Avatar photo

Aryana Noroozi

Black Voice News photojournalist Aryana Noroozi was born in San Diego, California and graduated with a master’s degree from The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Her love for visual storytelling led her to document immigrant and deportee communities and those struggling with addiction. She was a 2020 Pulitzer Center Crisis Reporting Fellow and a GroundTruth Project Migration Fellow. She is currently a CatchLight/Report for America corps member employed by Black Voice News. You can learn more about her at aryananoroozi.com. You can email her at aryana@blackvoicenews.com.