“Go down Molesy. Way down in the Egypt’s land. Gonna tell ya Pharaoh you gotta let me people go … ”
Harriet Tubman is one of the reenactors you’ll come across at 3816 Caroline Street, the new home for the museum.
“I’m Captain Matthews. I’m the founder and the curator of the Buffalo Soldier National Museum. We focus on, we feature the Buffalo Soldiers. We give a perspective on the African American military experience from 1770 to 2000.”
A mission that hasn’t changed with the museum’s new location and neither has the tour that Matthews takes you on beginning with artifacts from the late 1800s.
Buffalo Museum Curator Captain Matthews at his artifacts wall
“And then we all these other types of items you see here: a meat grinder, a sausage stuffer, lye soap, petrified wood.”
Next on the tour underneath a window is one of his favorite spots in the new space.
“Even today, I look at it and say, 'Wow’ we have the old soldier.”
Matthews’ excitement is directed toward a rare collector’s item, a bust of an African-American soldier crafted by sculptor Eddie Dixon. It’s number three of only three busts made by Dixon. Every crease and wrinkle is visible on The Old Soldier’s face, an image that represents a divided military.
“The World War II Veterans are the last of the Buffalo Soldiers because that’s the last of the segregated army.”
It’s not uncommon to see a World War II veteran in the museum talking to the kids who visit nor is it uncommon to see other soldiers like Vietnam Veteran Carlton Henry.
“If you’re African-American or if you’re just American and you wanna learn about the history of the American military this is an ideal place to come. I love comin here to be honest with ya, I really do.”
Eddie Dixon's "The Old Soldier" with Buffalo Museum Curator Captain Paul Matthews
Right now the museum is only in phase one of moving into the 23,000 square foot space on Caroline Street but Matthews says there’s more to come.
“Hopefully by this time next year we’ll be on the second and third floor which would complete our phase two.”
In the meantime, veterans like Henry and school tours continue to flock to see the museum’s display of war memorabilia — including a special area dedicated to NASA’s African-American astronauts — as Matthews describes the modern day Buffalo Soldier.
Reenactor Harriet Tubman is looking forward to seeing you very soon.
“Y’all wanna hear more about this here story? Y’all come on down here to the Buffalo Soldier National Museum and I tells' ya all about it. I’m gonna be lookin for ya’hear?”
African-American Astronauts display at the Buffalo Soldier Museum, Midtown