The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum (BSNM) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by Vietnam veteran and military historian Paul J. Matthews. Located in Houston at 3816 Caroline Street, the BSNM is open six days a week and conducts tours and reenactments for the general public and schools. Founded in 2001, the BSNM attracts visitors from the greater Houston area, throughout the state of Texas, across America, and around the world, including frequent international visitors from France, Germany, and England.
The BSNM, inspired by the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers, chronicles the entire African American military experience from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War. Displays include uniforms, firearms, flags, photographs, documents, and other military memorabilia. The primary objectives of the museum are to “preserve, promote, and perpetuate the honor and legacy of the brave men and women who fought, bled, and died in defense of America.”
The BSNM is a volunteer organization with a salaried executive director, administrative assistant, commissary clerk, and donor development specialist. The board of directors and volunteers, which include members of the 9th and 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association, Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, fraternities, sororities, and other community organizations, bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the operations of the museum. Additionally, the BSNM has organized a Founders Club (a group of corporate executives) to assist in fundraising activities. The board meets quarterly to plan and evaluate programs/projects and to assist with long-term planning.
Founder and chairman of the board Paul J. Matthews researched military history and collected military artifacts and memorabilia for more than thirty years prior to his founding of the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum. As of 2017 approximately fifty percent of the museum’s collection and exhibits have been donated from Matthews’s private collection.
The BSNM tours are interactive and participants are encouraged to ask questions and engage the re-enactors. The BSNM gives its visitors an opportunity to look through the eyes of characters like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and others. The museum has partnered with other area institutions, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Houston Holocaust Museum; and the Menil Collection.
In 2011 the BSNM partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Consulate General of Italy in Houston to present a screening and panel discussion for Inside Buffalo (2010), an independent documentary produced by Italian actor/director Fred Kuwornu about African American soldiers in Italy during World War II.
In November 2012 the BSNM relocated from 1834 Southmore Blvd to the Houston Light Guard Armory, a 23,000-square-foot building located at 3816 Caroline Street. Built in 1925, the armory headquartered the Houston Light Guards, one of the oldest National Guard companies in Texas.