The Center for African American Military History (CAAMH), inc., otherwise known as the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum (BSNM), is dedicated to exploring and displaying the stories and contributions of African Americans in the military by way of performing and visual arts, educational programming and exhibitions.
Their hope is 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 they serve. BSNM educates, preserves, promotes, and perpetuates the history, tradition and outstanding contributions of the Buffalo Soldier towards the development and defense of America from The Revolutionary War to the present.
WATM had the opportunity to sit down with BSNM’s CEO, Desmond Bertrand-Pitts to learn about how the museum started and where it’s heading.
WATM: As a steward of our nation’s heritage, what was your calling for this line of work?
I’ve actually been a part of the museum since its conception. It’s a family business; my grandfather is the founder. I didn’t really think of myself being in this position as a career (laughs). I tell people I was voluntold, so, I didn’t have a choice at the time. I volunteered for years. I have been in this position for five years now. It was a decision I made, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. At the time we moved into a new building, at that time things were moving really fast. So, I kind of told myself ‘Hey, this is what I think I can do. I think I can grow the museum in these certain ways,’ and it took off from there. I was a business director for seven months and then this position became available then I threw my hat in the race.
WATM: The Center for African American Military History is currently open, what can attendees expect on their tour?
Attendees can expect to get a wholistic view of the African American military experience — from the Revolutionary War to present day. There is something everybody can connect with no matter background, ethnicity, socio-economic status, there is something everyone can identify with. We even have a children’s room now. It’s something for every age and a multi-generational approach to providing history.
WATM: How can the public support the museum on its mission?
Various ways… one good way is to donate. Donate their time, we need active people who love and appreciate history and give some of that knowledge to guests that attend. We welcome them to the museum. [They can] participate in programs, new exhibitions, we have a membership program as well. Several different levels from individual to family to benefactor and we’re coming out with a young professional’s group as well. There are multiple ways you can get involved here.
WATM: Do you have anything you would like to say to the veteran audience?
Like I always say, even though it’s cliché, is thank you for your service. The work we do here is to make sure people know the sacrifice veterans make for this country. We want to continue to share those stories and make sure people do not forget. [For them] to leave here with a new found appreciation for the sacrifices men and women in uniform make. Thank you again for your service.
WATM: What is next for you and the museum?
For me, it’s get some rest at some point (laugh). Also for the museum, we launched a $5 million campaign in 2020. Everything we do has to do with something that is going to take us on our path forward. We have four different program pillars we’re working on a strategic plan moving forward. I think 2020 taught us a lot. It taught us to restructure, strategize, rethink, a lot of the processes we had in place prior to the pandemic because things can change at the drop of a dime. In literally the timespan of a week, everything changed. It has given us time to rethink and retool and take the museum into the next phase of our journey. [The museum celebrated 20 years in 2021.] So, now we’re looking ahead to the next 20 years, which gives me a little anxiety, but it’s good to think ahead and have a plan in place.
WATM: What is a piece of African-American military history that most people do not know?
The one question that we always get is, ‘Why do they call them Buffalo soldiers?’ The term came from the Cheyenne Native Americans. They say the fierce, courageous, fighting spirit that those men had. They attributed that to being that of the Buffalo. Also, the coarse hair, things of that sort made them think of the Buffalo. That’s where the name came from.
Buffalo Soldier National Museum Programs:
The Outdoor Exploration Program features monthly outdoor exploration activities for youth ages 10-17. This includes camping, hiking, fishing, horsemanship training and exploring historical sites. This program is sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
BSNM offers a wide variety of ongoing events and activities. Our programs are open to the public throughout the year and feature learning workshops and family-friendly activities designed to inform, educate, and entertain.
Paint Your History
History painting party, led by an Artist. Occasional live model of a Soldier, or artifact from our collection. Intended audiences will vary but youth 11-17, Adults 21 and older, veterans and seniors
Mindfulness & Meditation
Part of our mental health matters initiative, these sessions will focus on the mind, spirit and wholeness.
Seniors & Veterans
Fit To Serve
This program is designed to get seniors and vets moving and active. We intend to create a holistic approach to wellness by working with community partners to provide classes and workshops to our audience.
- STEM/STEAM: As the transition continues from STEM to STEAM, we are dedicated to provide. STEAM allows students to connect their learning in science technology engineering and mathematics together with art practices, elements, design principles and standards to provide the whole pallet of learning.
- Docent Training Volunteer training program led by 9th and 10th to general public who are interested in assisting us with guided tours.
- Museum After Dark MAD Initiative to attract a younger audience by offering reverse museum hours once a month. The goal is to create general interest, develop a young leaders circle, raise money via the bar and promote the fact that we are more than a museum.
- Historical Re-enactments
To learn more about the museum, visit their website.