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'Buffalo Soldiers' Ride To Honor Black Veterans

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Members of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club honor black veterans by riding through U Street northwest, and ending at the African American Civil War Memorial.
Jacob Fenston
Members of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club honor black veterans by riding through U Street northwest, and ending at the African American Civil War Memorial.

The streets of the nation's capital are filled with motorcycles every Memorial Day weekend, as Vietnam veterans participate in the Rolling Thunder ride to honor fallen soldiers. But there's also a smaller group that rides each year, ending at the African American Civil War Memorial.

These are members of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle club. About 1,500 rode in from around the country this year.

"We wanted to honor black heroes who have served our country," says Donald Thigpen, of the Buffalo Soldiers Maryland Chapter. The group is named after some of the first black regiments in the U.S. Army, dating back to the 1860s Wild West.

"They were fierce fighters just like the buffalo they hunted," he says. "And in some ways they may have looked like a buffalo with their beards."

The crowd gathered at the African American Civil War Memorial on U Street. Many there were veterans, like Joseph Hairston, who enlisted in 1940, fighting with segregated troops in World War II.

"The top brass were of the opinion that blacks wouldn't fight," he says. "I have ancestors who fought in every major war of this country."

This year's ride was the group's 10th anniversary.

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