The building above is the old National Guard Armory in the world famous 18th & Vine District in Kansas City, Missouri. Today, it sits idle, a shell of the glory days it saw for decades. 18th & Vine is the home of three giants in the life of African-American existence. What some call “flyover country,” Kansas City has contributed to the march for equality, and the struggle for recognition and worth as human beings. For their share of the promise of America.
Those three things, Buffalo Soldiers, Jazz, and the Baseball. Little is known, even around here, about the tall, thin triangle that ties all three of these giants together, from their beginnings until today. At least for now.
Take a little trip with me around the “BJB triangle” – through the “well I didn’t know” time tunnel. You’ll see it’s amazing, simply amazing! Check out this link for more on Negro Leagues Baseball.
In this building, February 1920, following two days of talks, the paperwork was signed creating the Negro Baseball Leagues. Of course, this isn’t where baseball and black people first got together. That happened in the mid to late 1800’s on military teams! You shouldn’t be at all surprised, after all the father of baseball, Abner Doubleday, was a Buffalo Soldier with the 24th Infantry and who didn’t know Lt. Jackie Robinson of the 10th? For you history buffs, I realize that around 1870, was when the “Wild Buffalos” or “Buffalo Soldiers” moniker came into being. But nowadays as it was during the late Indian Wars and beyond they all were known as Buffalo Soldiers.
Anyway, the Paseo YMCA is the western tip of the “BJB Triangle” (Buffalo Soldiers, Jazz, Baseball), even though it is the youngest of the three Giants of the Vine District.
The second point of the triangle is two blocks east near the corner of 19th and Highland Street. From the Paseo, you cross Vine Street to the next corner, Highland. Here is the Mutual Musicians Foundation.
Still, the hottest 1 AM jam sessions on any Saturday night, the Mutual Musicians Foundation, founded in 1917 as Kansas City’s Local 627, is an African-American division of the American Federation of Musicians and is registered of National Historic Places. So the southeast corner of the BJB Triangle is the seat of jazz in a town known for its hot jazz. If they were great or not so great, they were here as part of their Kansas City – Vine District experience.
Now for you Buffalo Soldiers and fans. The third corner of this “BJB” isosceles triangle is the corner of 18th and Highland Avenue and the National Guard Armory.
In July 1966, a group of veterans met at the National Guard Armory on the corner of 18th and Highland Avenue, one block east of 18th and Vine. Talking over their remembrances of having served as Buffalo Soldiers, it occurred to them that it was 100 years since the signing of the 1866 Reorganization Act setting in motion for the first time the enlisted service of African-Americans in the Regular Peacetime Army. James G. Madison and James Alexander decided to do something about that overlooked bit of history. Now, there is a groundswell of information available about their service and heroics.
Tirelessly, they developed the presence of the Buffalo Soldiers in the minds of the community they loved, Kansas City. In 1992 the chapter was formalized and became the Greater Kansas City – Leavenworth Area Chapter 9th & 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association. Later the name change was approved and it became the Alexander/Madison Chapter of Kansas City Area Buffalo Soldiers 9th & 10th (Horse) Calvary.
The troops that first became known as Buffalo Soldiers were the 10th Colored Cavalry which Colonel Benjamin Grierson directed be called simply 10th Cavalry. Passing through Kansas City in 1866, the 10th Cavalry and 38th Infantry came to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for formation. The Cavalry used to ride to Kansas City, Kansas to play baseball. Even though Mutual Musicians Foundation started in 1917 and Negro Leagues Baseball formed in 1920, it was the Buffalo Soldiers who came through the area over 50 years earlier. With the first organization starting in 1966, we were the last organization to form in the 18th & Vine area, the Buffalo Soldiers were the first of the BJB Triangle to grace the KC area.
Today, the Buffalo Soldiers 9th & 10th (Horse) Cavalry Association has 40 chapters across the United States of America. From the “Ready and Forward” attitude and the Buffalo Spirit, the association owes its existence to Troopers James Alexander and James G. Madison.
All of this surrounds the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum. One block either east or west will take you to the National Guard Armory building or the Paseo YMCA, respectively.
So as we celebrate the anniversary of the groundbreaking service of the Buffalo Soldiers we are honored to have the genesis of our 151-year history intertwined with that of the Negro Leagues Baseball and Kansas City Jazz…what better company?
For an unforgetable experience while at the 2017 Buffalo Soldiers 151st Anniversary Reunion in Kansas City, July 24th – 29th, register quickly for your invitation to our Bar-B-Que and Museums at 18th & Vine event. It’s only $35 per person. Bar-B-Que anyone?