Bob Marley's "Buffalo Soldier"

I always thought that in his song Buffalo Soldier Bob Marley was singing about himself, or the plight of the black man in the USA.
(see lyrics here)

But yesterday, hearing it again, I started to wonder, is it a reference to some historical event or person?

I believe the Buffalo Soldiers were black slaves brought to America to fight native Indians. That’s about the extent of my knowledge on the subject.

“Buffalo Soldiers” was the common phrase used to describe African-American soldiers who fought in the West after the Civil War. There are probably several dozen websites you can read about different regiments that had this nickname.
Or you can go to a library and read one of several books about them.

I remember hearing something like, “American Indians called black soldiers in the Indian Wars ‘buffalo soldier’ because they had hair like buffalo.”

I never thought to check the veracity of that though.

I’m sure someone around here has though.


Am I supposed to believe that all this rain was suspended in mid-air until moments ago?

Try this website for a starter http://www.louisdiggs.com/buffalo/history.html

There is no shortage of info on these guys.

Thank you for the information fellows! How could I have lived this long without knowing that? :o

Can anyone recommend any of the books listed at this site? http://www.buffalosoldiers.net/books.html

Otherwise I guess I can just pick one and try it out.

While many of the “Buffalo soldiers” were former slaves, none of them were brought to America for the purpose of fighting. They joined these military units after they were freed in the Civil War. And considering that the African slave trade ended decades before the Civil War, its extremely unlikely any African-born blacks were Buffalo soldiers.

Think about it; it would be foolish to enslave people than form them into military units.

I always thought that this song was about Helie Selassie (sp?), the guy who is also known as Ras Tafari and for whom the whole Rastafarian religion is named.

Witness: Bob Marley was a devout Rastafarian, so it seems appropriate that he would sing a song praising his “messiah” (for lack of a better choice of words). Perhaps he calls him a Buffalo Soldier because he was black, and because he was a soldier in the sense that he “fought” for, er, justice or peace or something.

“Brought to America”: my WAG is that it refers to Ras Tafari’s trip to Jamaica sometime in the sixties or seventies. Maybe Marley is using “America” here in the sense of “The Americas” - that is, the West.

My $.02

…[hijack]
>“Perhaps he calls him a Buffalo Soldier because he(Selassie) was black,”<
I do not know that it is entirely accurate to call the Ethiopians " black " I THINK that they are, in fact , a semitic people. At least as far as the languages are concerned.

If anyone is interested, there is a Buffalo Soldier Monument at Fort Leavenworth. (A former girlfriend of mine lived across the street from the post.) Worth a look if you are in the Kansas City area.

I always figured Marley was using the Buffalo Soldiers as a metaphor for the black experience in the Americas generally. You know: “Here we are, a people stolen from Africa, then brought here to do the crappy work no one else wants to do (fighting Indians, for example), and yet we get no reward for it and we get treated like dirt. Aren’t we all really ‘Buffalo Soldiers’?”

“I’m just a Buffalo Soldier, in the war for America.”

That was my take anyway.