Hundreds from Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle clubs around the northeast are revving up and riding into Hampton next week.
They are coming to sponsor a charity event — something they’ve done here before — and check out the city for future events.
But this time dozens of clubs, including the Buffalo Soldiers of Hampton Roads Motorcycle Club, are heading to Hampton to learn more about the history of first documented Africans who arrived in English North America in 1619 — and how it connects to the legacy and heritage of the Buffalo soldiers.
“It’s two-fold,” said Jeff “Creole” Colimon, 65, a past president at the Hampton Roads chapter that consists of members, mostly retired military and law enforcement.
In August, hundreds in Hampton Roads — many who traveled from outside the region to participate — honored those first generation Africans during a 400th anniversary commemoration at Fort Monroe. There, on the former military site on Fenwick Road, is a state marker acknowledging those Africans’ arrival.
Colimon, a retired Army veteran, served at Fort Monroe and also knows about its history as “Freedom’s Fortress,” the place where three Hampton slaves during the Civil War sought asylum under Maj. Benjamin Butler, which sparked thousands of slaves seeking refuge at Fort Monroe.
“We thought it would be educational to visit the rich history that Hampton has to offer,” Colimon said. “We think there is a loose linkage between the first arrival and the great history of the Buffalo Soldiers.”
In 1866, shortly after the Civil War, Congress established the first of all-African American military units to serve during peacetime — the 9th and the 10th Cavalry regiments. Shortly after those units formed, the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st infantry units were established. Later, the newer units were condensed into the 24th and 25th Infantry, according to the National Park Service website.
These African American soldiers escorted settlers, cattle and workers laboring on the railroad, according to historical data.
The Buffalo Soldiers also served in offensives against American Indian tribes on frontiers from Montana to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. On those battlefields, the soldiers’ tenacity and combat prowess earned them the nickname “Buffalo Soldiers.”
The Buffalo Soldiers also evolved as some of the first park rangers and caretakers of federal land, Fort Monroe National Monument Superintendent Terry E. Brown said.
During the 19th century, when the West was being discovered, the U.S. used the Buffalo Soldiers to help protect the American western frontier, and the first cowboys and explorers of the West are those soldiers, Brown said.
He added that Hollywood has romanticized the American cowboy, but seldom included images of the Buffalo Soldiers.
“The true cowboy was a black man on a beautiful horse and could shoot a can, a mile away,” Brown said. “Think of park rangers in the woods and out in the country and that was your first park rangers.”
As many as 250 people have registered for the event that begins Oct. 11 and continues Oct. 12, with the charity ride to various African American heritage sights, such as Hampton University and Fort Monroe.
The ride is to raise funds for local charities and also for the proposed memorial honoring the Buffalo Soldiers at West Point, a $1.2 million project, Colimon said. The weekend activities also feature a black tie gala Saturday evening at the Hampton Roads Convention Center.
The Northeast Frontier Buffalo Soldier clubs, under the banner of the National Association of Buffalo Soldiers & Troopers Motorcycle Club, seek to preserve the legacy of those first African American cavalry and infantry regiments.
“It’s about the recognition of their contributions,” Colimon said. “When you look at the evolution of the African Americans, in general, in the armed forces, we could not be here without the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers. The Buffalo Soldiers have been the building blocks for African Americans in the military.”
The 2019 Northeast Frontier Buffalo Soldiers is a paid event that begins 5 p.m. Friday at the Embassy Suites, 1700 Coliseum Drive.
It continues at 11 a.m. Saturday for a 400th anniversary of the first African arrival charity ride departing from the Hampton Roads Convention Center, 1610 Coliseum Drive. After the ride, there are events at 1 p.m. at Langley Speedway and a 7 p.m. gala at the Hampton Roads Convention Center.
The cost to register is $85 for all events and $20 for the charity ride only, organizers said. Ticket and registration information is available at this link. Additional information is available by calling the convention center at 757-315-1610.