TACOMA, Wash. - Actor, producer and humanitarian Danny Glover made a special visit to Tacoma to speak about the Buffalo Soldiers at the "Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future: an American history tribute" event Jan. 25.
The event, hosted by the Buffalo Soldiers Museum and Broadway Center, focused on the contributions of the soldiers to American history with insight from Glover through his 1997 film "Buffalo Soldiers."
Jackie Jones-Hook, executive director for the Buffalo Soldiers Museum, planned the event as a tribute to American history.
"These Soldiers, who many gave the ultimate sacrifice for America," said Hook, "but our theme is 'Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future,' so we honor these men of the past and long term embracing the future of military persons."
Glover began his monolog by saying, "I am very proud to be asked to speak tonight and celebrate the history of the Buffalo Soldiers. The history of the Buffalo Soldiers is a storied history, one that is not often acknowledged, but significant to American history."
Approximately six months after the end of the Civil War, Congress authorized the creation of the 9th and 10th Cavalry, and 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Infantry Regiments in 1866. They were comprised of black enlisted men, many who were veterans of the Civil War, and staffed with white officers.
In the following 30 years, the soldiers were utilized in every engagement with Native Americans. The Native Americans gave the troopers the name "Buffalo Soldiers" because the texture of their hair, their bravery and fighting spirit reminded them of a buffalo.
They also took part in the Spanish American War, Philippine American Insurrection, the Mexican War, fought at San Juan Hill, World War I and II, Korean War, and were involved in the process of expansionism in the Louisiana Purchase.
"As I learned more about the soldiers, I felt they had to prove themselves as Americans post slavery," Glover said. "The Buffalo Soldiers were caught up in the dilemma of racism and trying to find a way to be respected and honored as citizens. The soldiers were used in various ways, sometimes not in favorable roles."
From the beginning idea of the film, Glover worked with his staff to determine what story he wanted to tell, layout the movie how he wanted and elevate the values he wanted emphasized.
"Telling the story the way you envision it doesn't often happen in movies," said Glover. "One element I needed to depict was the emotional dangers the soldiers may have dealt with."
During Glover's monolog, he commented on certain scenes from the film and why he chose to portray the Native Americans and Buffalo Soldiers in the particular way that he did.
"At the end of the Civil War, America was under reconstruction," Glover said. "These men were looking for ways of being accepted as Americans and, essentially, as human beings. The first assignment for the men as Buffalo Soldiers was to enter the Louisiana Purchase. What I wanted to demonstrate was the authority they had to, not only campaign against "renegades," but also protect those Native Americans now on reservations."
Throughout the film review portion of the discussion, Glover discussed several of the scenarios the soldiers may have been faced with, all the emotions present in those situations and how they handled each. The last scene he reviewed demonstrated a decision by Glover's character that was morally right and helped portray the Buffalo Soldiers as peacemakers to the Native Americans.
Glover was proud his product was exactly what he wanted to do. His team started with an idea, began to develop the idea and began from first scene on with what they wanted to do, and the idea of having that kind of control is what it makes the film memorable to them.
"It's not perfect, but to be able to say this is what I want to say and place to put some sort of context, it's part of a journey," said Glover. "Shape the past, emotional fear and all the possibilities of what could have happened. It was not about presenting reality as it is; it was about presenting reality that we can imagine."