In the song 'Buffalo Soldier' by Bob Marley, he sings:

Buffalo soldier, dreadlock rasta
There was a buffalo soldier
In the heart of America
Stolen from Africa, brought to America

What is a Buffalo Soldier?

1 Answer 1


A very quick Google would have scored the Wiki as the first hit:

Buffalo Soldiers originally were members of the 10th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, formed on September 21, 1866, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. This nickname was given to the Black Cavalry by Native American tribes who fought in the Indian Wars. The term eventually became synonymous with all of the African-American regiments formed in 1866.

Sources disagree on how the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers" began. According to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, the name originated with the Cheyenne warriors in the winter of 1877, the actual Cheyenne translation being "Wild Buffalo". However, writer Walter Hill documented the account of Colonel Benjamin Grierson, who founded the 10th Cavalry regiment, recalling an 1871 campaign against Comanches. Hill attributed the origin of the name to the Comanche, due to Grierson's assertions. The Apache used the same term ("We called them 'buffalo soldiers,' because they had curly, kinky hair ... like bisons") a claim supported by other sources.[3][4] [5] [6] Another possible source could be from the Plains Indians who gave them that name because of the bison coats they wore in winter.[7] The term Buffalo Soldiers became a generic term for all black soldiers. It is now used for U.S. Army units that trace their direct lineage back to any of the African-American regiments formed in 1866.

  • Interesting. Except of course the song refers to 'dread-locked rasta', so I'm not sure that this explanation works. My personal opinion, for what it's worth, is that Bob Marley is referring to Africa here by the term, 'Buffalo'. Especially since he is harking back to Africa by the line, 'stolen from Africa'. Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 13:30
  • I'd also add that when Nelson Mandela was at school, the principal invited a black writer to deliver a talk. He turned up in a leopard-skin and holding a spear. Unsurprisingly, this electrified the school. I think it's more likely that Bob Marley is referring to something similar to this. Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 14:29
  • @MoziburUllah, you are allowed to answer to your own question if you think it's different from Johnny's.
    – Bebs
    Commented Jul 7, 2020 at 16:10
  • 2
    "Stolen from Africa" could also be a reference to slavery. He clearly says "Win the war for America". Maybe he's comparing himself to the buffalo soldier, because he later references the Caribbean and San Juan. But you didn't ask for the reference or possible meaning behind it, you only asked what a Buffalo Soldier was. Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 13:59
  • 2
    There's also this, which does correlate the American Buffalo Soldier to the plight of Jamaicans (and blacks in general). en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Soldier_(song) Commented Jul 8, 2020 at 14:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.