Happy Buffalo Soldiers Day!
This day was established to honor the African-American soldiers who fought for our country beginning with the Civil War. A monument at Fort Leavenworth was dedicated by General Colin Powell on this date in 1992. Here is a website to learn more about the Buffalo Soldiers.
Pink and Say written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco (1994)
This is true story set during the Civil War. It is a story about Sheldon Russell Curtis (Patricia Polacco’s great great grandfather) and Pinkus Aylee, both union soldiers. Sheldon, known by everybody as Say, was injured and left for dead in a Georgia field. Say was found by a black union soldier who carried him out of that field and to his home to be cared for by his mother, sweet Moe Moe Bay. The boys immediately realize they’re putting Moe Moe Bay in harms way just by being in her house. For weeks Moe Moe Bay took care of the boys, cooking for them, watching over them as they slept, and encouraging Say to walk on his injured leg every day so it wouldn’t go cripple on him. Pink talks about the poor conditions of his regiment, but he still wants to go back to help them fight the war. Say, on the other hand, doesn’t ever want to go back. As they heal, Pink talks about growing up a slave in this house. How he was taught to read by his owner, and how he knew that although he might be owned as a person, no one could ever own him. When Say admits that he doesn’t know how to read, Pink promises to teach him how to read one day. Say, who had once shaken hands with Abraham Lincoln, shook hands with Pink so that he could say that he touched the hand that once touch Lincoln’s. Say also admits that he’s afraid to go back, and that he was injured while running away. When marauders attack the house, Moe Moe Bay pushes the boys into the root cellar to hide, goes to face them alone, and gets killed in the attack. After burying Moe Moe Bay, the boys took off in search of their troops. However, they are captured by Confederate soldiers and taken to Andersonville to one of the worst camps in the south. Eventually Say was released and went home. He returned to his family, got married, and saw children and grandchildren grow up. Pink was never released. It is said that he was hanged within hours of arriving at Andersonville prison. At the end of the story Patricia Polacco encourages readers and listeners to say the name of Pinkus Aylee aloud because he has no family to remember him.
The Buffalo Soldier written by Sherry Garland and illustrated by Ronald Himler (2006)
This is a historical fiction picture book. It tells the story of a young black man who signs up with the U.S. Army after becoming a freeman. He enlisted for the $13 a month paycheck which he saved to support his Mama back home. The rest of the money he wanted to save to buy himself a piece of land. He trained with a sergeant who was a mean as a skunk and worked hard all day. In the evenings, he attended school on the post where the chaplain teaches the men how to read and write. His troop escorted stagecoaches and patrolled the land for raiding Indian parties. Then he met a pretty washerwoman and married her the next June. He marched and served in forts from Kansas to Texas to Arizona and then to the land of the Sioux, apache, Camanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Crow, Arapaho, Lakota, Kickapoo and Lipan. He re-enlisted so many times, his wife said she hoped his fingers would freeze off so he couldn’t sign up again. After 30 years in the army his troop charged up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War and he promised to leave the army for good. Now, an old man, he receives a letter from his grandson fighting in the Second World War complaining about his sergeant who’s as mean as a skunk. He just nods his head and smiles.