Aundrea Matthews stood in her black blouse, black skirt and sunglasses at the edge of Buffalo Soldier Field here and watched the construction crane lift the 2,000-pound equestrian statue of her grandfather.
“Here he is, West Point!” she called out — the man who as a little girl she knew as Papoo. “He’s going to be watching forever!” She covered her face with her hands and then clasped them as if in prayer.
The crane, which held the bronze image with heavy yellow bands, slowly turned the statue of African American Staff Sgt. Sanders H. Matthews Sr. until it faced north and lowered it onto its octagonal granite base.
And 114 years after they first came to the Army’s then-segregated academy to teach horsemanship to White cadets, the Black Buffalo Soldiers of West Point finally had their statue.
And at 2:10 p.m. Tuesday, the U.S. Military Academy raised its first outdoor statue of a Black man.
Etched into the granite are the words, “In Memory of the Buffalo Soldiers who served with the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments as part of the United States Military Academy Cavalry Detachment at West Point.”
As equestrian images of Confederate generals come down across the country, here was a statue of an African American horseman being erected.
“That’s another thing that I think is pretty powerful about it,” said Matthews, the academy’s cultural arts director for the corps of cadets.
“Everybody has a right to have their story told,” she said. “Because it’s a powerful story. Just what [the Buffalo Soldiers] endured, their determination and their commitment to prove to the world that African American men can contribute and are viable citizens of this country.”
“We talk about so much pain that Black men experience in America and all the judgments people make about them,” she said. “But when you put this monument up there, you’re only going to be able to talk about their triumphs … their valor, their honor, their patriotism.”
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SOURCE: The Washington Post, Michael E. Ruane