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TU students bring history to life

Buffalo Soldiers exhibition at Maryland Historical Society through September 3    

TOWSON, Md. (June 28, 2006)—Seven TU undergraduates played a key role in bringing one African-American veteran’s story to a wider—and very appreciative—audience.  

The seven, all freshmen enrolled in Pat Anderson’s HistorySgt. Norman Gilyard, Buffalo Soldier 146 course in spring 2004, seemed like an ideal group for a museum-based project.  

“It was a small class, and they were such high-caliber students that I thought we could do some real hands-on historical research,” Anderson recalled. “I knew it could be both fun and educational.”

Anderson, a 1996 TU graduate, divides her time between teaching at her alma mater and working at the Maryland History Society, where she is managing editor of the Maryland Historical Magazine. “I have a foot in both camps,” she said with a laugh.

Anderson approached Nancy Davis, deputy director of the museum division, about a research project for the class. A local man, Leon Bean, had donated his grandfather’s Buffalo Solder artifacts to the society, and Davis suggested that the students investigate this particular soldier’s life as well as the contributions of other African American soldiers during World War II.

Buffalo Soldiers was a name given to black soldiers during the Indian Wars in 1866. African Americans revived the term during World War II.  

The artifacts in question had belonged to Norman Gilyard, a Baltimorean who had served with the 92nd infantry in northern Italy. In 1987 Gilyard (pictured, above right) recounted his wartime experiences as a private (later a staff sergeant) as part of an oral-history project. After his death in 1996, Bean donated his grandfather’s army memorabilia and the interview audiotapes to the Maryland Historical Society.

Anderson said her students threw themselves into the Buffalo Soldier project, going above and beyond the original course requirements. “They transcribed the tapes, found and photographed the veteran’s former home and neighborhood, interviewed his friends and family members, wrote text and photo captions and in general did far more than I’d expected,” she added.

She said the students’ efforts, together with a grant from the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts, made the exhibition possible.

 

Tell Us Your Stories—Buffalo Soldiers: One Man’s Stories, chronicles Norman Gilyard’s World War II service along with his uniform shirt, pictures of him with his regiment and his original discharge papers. Visitors can hear Gilyard himself in interviews conducted by his grandson. 

The exhibition continues until September 3 at the Maryland Historical Society,

201 W. Monument Street, in Baltimore.


Photo courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society.

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