The Center for African American Military History, Inc., DBA Buffalo Soldiers National Museum (BSNM), has launched a $13 million capital campaign entitled Ready & Forward to repair and renovate our historic facility, expand and improve our exhibits and programs, and ensure the museum’s long-term sustainability.
To explore and display the stories and contributions of African Americans in the military by way of performing and visual arts, educational programming,and exhibitions.
To extend public knowledge of the achievements of all the nation’s African American armed forces personnel to the general public, thus building pride and patriotism throughout all of the communities we serve.
BSNM has the duty and responsibility to ensure that African American military history continues to be shared.
Our work extends beyond artifacts, weapons, and uniforms. We share the untold stories of African American military men and women who uplift, encourage, and inspire individuals from all walks of life and restore newfound respect and admiration for our nation and those who serve.
A short history of the Buffalo Soldiers
And the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum
The First Buffalo Soldiers
After Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863, the U.S. government officially began recruiting, enlisting, and training Black soldiers. Through an act of Congress in 1866, legislation was adopted to create six all-African American Army units: The 9th and 10th cavalry and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st infantry regiments, known as the Buffalo Soldiers.
Buffalo Soldiers on the Frontier
The Buffalo Soldiers are deployed to the Western Frontier to help protect settlers from Native American attacks and enforce U.S. government policies. The Buffalo Soldiers are deployed to Cuba during the Spanish-American War, where they served with distinction in the battles of San Juan Hill and El Caney.
World War II
Of the 900,000 Black men and women who served in WWII, many served in new roles such as the Tuskegee Airmen, the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the Women’s Army Corps, the 761st Tank Battalion, and the Marine Corps.
Armed Forces Desegregated
President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, desegregating the armed forces. The Buffalo Soldiers are officially disbanded, and their regiments are integrated into the U.S. Army.
Buffalo Soldiers Day
Congress passed a law designating July 28 as Buffalo Soldiers Day.
Planning the Museum
In March of 2000, Captain Paul Matthews and his wife, Barbara, initiated the museum discussion: What to do with the many books and artifacts they had collected over the years? They started developing an action plan to conduct an inventory of the artifacts. In April, the Matthews filed documents as Center for African American Military History, DBA Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. By October, they signed a contract to rent the first floor of a building.
The Museum Opens
Reverend Byron Stevenson blessed the building and our mission, and we opened the door for business. The museum doors opened at 1834 Southmore, in the historic 3rd Ward and within the Houston Museum District.
The Congressional Gold Medal
The Tuskegee Airmen are honored with the Congressional Gold Medal for their service and sacrifice.
Moving to the Armory
Board of Directors approves the purchase of the Houston Light Guard Armory, built in 1925 at 3816 Caroline Street, as the new home of the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum.
The launch of a $4.1 million campaign to restore and preserve the Houston Light Guard Armory begins.
BSNM receives $500,000 from the Herzstein Foundation to begin Phase 1 of the preservation and renovation project.
Phase 1 Completed: After years of raising the necessary funds to restore the Armory, the museum opened its doors of the new facility to the public in 2012.
Change of Command
In 2016, Desmond Bertrand-Pitts, Captain Matthews’ grandson, became the Interim Executive Director and was named CEO during a Change of Command Ceremony on Veterans Day November 11, 2017.
Houston Endwoment Gift
BSNM received a gift of $750,000 from Houston Endowment to support the museum’s general operations and their efforts to improve their sustainability.
Ready & Forward
The final phase of the preservation and renovation began on the Houston Light Guard Armory, completing a 14-year project to restore and rehabilitate the historic building. A Houston Chronicle article officially announces the launch of the $13 million dollar capital campaign, branded as the Ready & Forward campaign, with $2 million in gifts from the Kinder Foundation and $1.5 million from The Houston Endowment—the largest gifts in the museum’s history.
Challenges and Priorities
In 2012, the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum seized the opportunity to save the historic Houston Light Guard (HLG) Armory and turn it into a new home for our growing museum. The three-story building is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, a City of Houston Protected Landmark, and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
BSNM began repairing and renovating the Armory, which had been neglected for almost 70 years. We reorganized the space to create galleries, a small theater, gift shop, multipurpose rooms, a ballroom, and exterior program and exhibition spaces. In 2017, however, Hurricane Harvey caused extensive damage to the building. Many artifacts are being stored on-site until needed repairs are completed.
In addition to these repairs,
the BSNM has identified other mission-critical priorities:
Enhancing the Armory
Expanding and improving exhibit and archival spaces, incorporating modern museum components, and enhancing the visitor experience.
Elevating Archival Capabilities
Expanding Reach & Education Services
Campaign Budget and Capacity for Success
|Ready & Forward Campaign Budget|
|Enhance the Armory||$7,190,000|
|Elevate Archival Capabilities||$1,885,000|
|Expand Reach & Educational Programs Endowment||$1,695,000|
|Establish Sustainability for Staff Growth||$755,000|
BSNM’s annual operating budget is $1.5 million (FY2022). Thanks to diversified revenue and prudent financial management, we have had a balanced budget every year since 2002 amid steady operational growth.
With a strong and highly committed board and leadership, broad community support, and success with prior campaigns, the BSNM anticipates success with the current campaign. To date, we have secured $2.6 million in commitments toward our $13 million goal, thanks to generous support from The Brown Foundation, Kinder Foundation, the State of Texas Historical Commission, The Houston Endowment, and others.
60,000 Visitors Annually
Upon completion, BSNM expects to serve approximately 60,000 students, adults, and veterans annually with newly renovated, state-of-the-art exhibitions, and an elevated museum experience. New collections and classroom spaces will also allow the museum to welcome community members interested in archival and preservation, while also positioning the museum as a national resource for those researching the history of African American military service.